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US plays with fire in South China Sea

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Adm. Scott Swift speaks to journalists on Friday, July 17, 2015 in Manila, Philippines.

An American political commentator says the United States is trying to escalate tensions in the South China Sea, which can lead to tragic consequences.

Professor Dennis A. Etler made the remarks in a phone interview with Press TV on Sunday while commenting on Washington’s decision to start surveillance flights over the South China Sea.

According to the Associated Press, the United States is spying over the South China Sea using one of its newest surveillance aircraft.

Admiral Scott Swift, the new US commander of the Pacific Fleet, joined a seven-hour spying mission on board a P-8A Poseidon plane on Saturday, the report said.

“I think it is a very dangerous precedent that [Americans] are establishing by militarising the South China Sea, in that the US is trying to project its power, and assert its prerogatives there in the face of the Chinese assertion of sovereignty over the area,” he said, before warning that “This can lead to dire consequences as we’ve seen in the past when powers are in contention.”

Washington accuses Beijing of undergoing a massive “land reclamation” program in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, and says China’s territorial claims of the man-made islands could further militarize the region.

The United States says its surveillance of China’s artificial islands indicates that Beijing has positioned weaponry on one of the islands it has built in the South China Sea.

Professor Etler said the US action “brings up memories of the Korean Airlines [Flight] KAL007 that was shot down over the Sea of Japan – over Sakhalin Island back in 1983 – with the loss of nearly 300 people, that was shot down by the Soviet Union, of course.”

“The US had been flying nearby for years with surveillance flights, very similar to what’s going on in the South China Sea and the Soviets were reacting to that, and unfortunately with tragic consequences,” he pointed out.

Citing various incidents, Professor Etler stated that “all of these incidents are the result of tensions mounted by the US… leading to situations where tragedies of this sort can occur, whether or by accident or by pre-meditation… so that the US has an excuse to intervene,” concluding that “I think, what the US is doing, is just trying to escalate tensions. They hope it might lead to some sort of incidence, which they then can exploit for their benefit.”

A P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

A Chinese state-owned newspaper warned in May that a war between the United States and China is “inevitable,” unless Washington stops demanding Beijing halt its construction projects in the South China Sea.

“If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea,” the Global Times, an influential newspaper owned by the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper the People’s Daily, said in an editorial.

Washington does not recognize China’s sovereignty in the disputed areas and has sent surveillance aircraft and warships to test its territorial claims.

The Obama administration is trying to keep its focus on a widely advertised shift to Asia, which it has pursued since 2011. The White House argues that no region is more important to the United States’ long-term interests than Asia.


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