The End of U.S. Primacy in Asia

March 3, 2016 Topic: Security Region: Asia Tags: South China SeaChinaDefenseNaval PowerASEAN

The End of U.S. Primacy in Asia

Washington is being outmaneuvered in the Pacific.

Japan is another major power that could be involved in similar operations against China. In response to China’s recent deployment of military platforms to disputed land features, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani condemned what his country sees as a "unilateral move by China to change the status quo," adding that such actions "cannot be overlooked" by Japan, which has a direct stake in freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. Even the Indian Navy is now considering joint FONOPs with the United States in the disputes waters.

China is now confronting the prospect of four major naval powers conducting FONOPs in what it considers as its “national blue soil,” while the ASEAN has effectively opposed China’s calls for dropping the South China Sea disputes from their regional agenda. Nonetheless, there is no assurance that China will be the first party to blink in this emerging maritime game of chicken in the South China Sea. Absent a concerted pushback by the international community, China will likely continue to use American countermeasures as a pretext for further consolidating its grip on disputed waters and land features. Gradually, the South China Sea has transformed into Asia’s new battleground for supremacy.

Richard Javad Heydarian is an Assistant Professor in political science at De La Salle University, and formerly a policy adviser at the Philippine House of Representatives (2009-2015). The Manila Bulletin, a leading national daily, has described him as one of the Philippines’ “foremost foreign policy and economic analysts.” He is the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific (Zed, London), and a regular to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). 

Image: Flickr/U.S. Navy