Mark Landler gives a run-down on the Naval face-offs that are starting to kick-off around the world. This is something that has not been such an issue for the last couple of decades, mostly because America had (and still does have) unassailable hegemony over the waters. That said, the Chinese have just built an aircraft carrier and Turkey is definitely posturing for dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean – provoking Israel in particular.
A couple of observations:
- It’s lucky that the US is taking this seriously, that needs to continue. The US cutting defence spending would give China carte-blanche to dominate the South Pacific and forcibly take all of the oil and natural gas fields there.
- This poses a direct threat to Australia. It is very much against our interests to have the Chinese navy pushing us back from South-East Asia. It is imperative therefore that we maintain a strong military alliance with the US.
- Obviously the world’s energy problems and the attendant violence is now moving away from the Middle East (or at least no longer isolated to that region). Again, this is concerning for Australia – our immediate neighbourhood could well be the next major conflict zone if the world goes the wrong way.
- The infographic from the article was also pretty good.
For China, the South China Sea has long been crucial as a supply route for oil and other raw materials to fuel its economy. China’s claims have deep historical roots, dating from the 1940s, when Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists drew a dotted line in the shape of a cow’s tongue extending south of China, embracing most the sea and two disputed island chains, the Paracels and the Spratlys.
Quarrels over these hunks of volcanic rock wouldn’t matter much, except that China, Vietnam and the Philippines are running into one another in the race for oil. Last spring, in two separate incidents, Vietnam accused Chinese vessels of deliberately cutting the seismic survey cables of an oil exploration ship. A former American official said his nightmare scenario would be a Chinese warship’s firing on an Exxon oil-drilling ship.
If the South China Sea is simmering, then the eastern Mediterranean is seething. There, claims to huge natural-gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus and Lebanon have raised tensions with Turkey, which occupies half of Cyprus, as well as with Israel. Cyprus and Israel are drilling for gas, angering Turkey. The militant Islamic group Hezbollah, in Lebanon, has threatened to attack Israeli gas rigs.