Chinese authorities scolded the US for “escalating tensions” in the Pacific and trying to “encircle” China for signing an agreement with Australia to open a US Marine base there.
Why does this make me think of scripture? “The guilty fleeth where no man pursueth.”
China has no grounds to stand on in this matter: Australian and US troops have fought side by side in every major conflict of the XXth century. We share historic, cultural and linguistic ties. We are already closely allied.
If the United States had established a military base in Vietnam, or in Indonesia, countries which lie directly astride China’s critical sea lanes and who are not traditional US allies, then there could be more justice to there claims. Australia clearly doesn’t fall into this category, as even the briefest glance at a map will show. The US base at Diego Garcia would serve equally well, if not better, to interdict Chinese commerce from the Indian Ocean, than a base in Darwin.
China should consider that this move may simply be a response to their own belligerent comments and actions. The flying of a new stealth fighter prototype during the visit of the US Defense Secretary, the aggressive patrolling of waters claimed by multiple nations in the Spratly and Paracell Islands, the Chinese Navy’s modernization program and the purchase and refit of a Soviet-era Kuznetzov-class aircraft carrier and the determination to build more: all of these actions – while perfectly legitimate – don’t mesh very well with the “peaceful panda” image that China thinks it projects internationally. That may sell in Latin America and Europe, where it is easy and popular to be anti-American (living as they do under the US defense umbrella), but it is less easy to those nations close enough to the panda to see the teeth and claws.
President Obama’s policy towards Asia is correct: a drive to develop greater economic integration across the region, inclusive dialogue with China and other regional powers to solve territorial disputes and other pressing issues, like the situation in North Korea, and a strong military stance to demonstrate US commitment to maintaining the sovereignty and independence of all nations that share the Pacific Ocean. Should China welcome and commit itself more fully to these goals, and it will find that its neighors will no longer feel the need to welcome US Marines to their nations. The problem will take care of itself.