China unfazed by three US carriers in the Pacific

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - June 22, 2020 - 12:00am

There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of the western media to highlight the fact that, for the first time in years, three United States aircraft carriers are deployed in the Pacific all at the same time. The USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Theodore Roosevelt are in or near the Philippine Sea in the Western Pacific, while the USS Nimitz is patrolling further east toward the California coast.

While the US Navy has downplayed the mighty show of force as just part of routine security operations and not in response to escalating tensions with China over bilateral trade and sovereignty issues in the South China Sea, there can be no ambiguity as to the real purpose why they are there. So the question is, does the saber-rattling rattle China?

Another development may provide the answer. As the United States strikes a pose with its naval assets at China's eastern flank, China pointedly ignores the hard-to-ignore American presence and just as pointedly busies itself with another looming presence on its western flank --India. In fact it has already engaged India in deadly sporadic clashes on their contested border.

China and India have already fought a bloody but brief war in the early 1960s. That experience has taught China one very valuable lesson --that India is not afraid of China. That India is prepared to go to war again if necessary. And that is why China, despite the looming American threat toward the east, would rather face the more urgent and realistic threat coming from India in the west.

For China already has America's number. After years and years of noisy exchanges, America has never gotten around even once to prove to China militarily that its bite is as good as its bark. The South China Sea issue is a case in point. With its surveillance and intelligence-gathering capabilities second to none, there is no way the US could have missed what China was up to from the first spadeful of sand turned in the South China Sea.

Receiving nothing but token verbal resistance, China correctly guessed that America was not likely to embark on another costly war. Already in military conflicts on many fronts, many of them undefined and against an enemy identifiable only by the trail of terror it leaves behind, the US is not about to open up another one, especially against another certified power this time. Or so China is convinced.

If the US had been willing to go to war over the South China Sea, the world would have been reading about the exploits of the Reagan, the Roosevelt and the Nimitz as early as maybe five or six years ago, not now. Now, all these aircraft carriers are doing in the Pacific is just for posturing, no different from a boy puffing up his cheeks.

At best, all they can do is conduct sail-throughs, with prior notice to China, of course, of their intentions and to which China dutifully responds with feigned and mock concern. But China has America's number. China knows freedom of navigation sail-throughs are just face-saving tactics to keep the illusion of American might. To that, China is willing to play along. Saves a lot in cost. It is to the west and India that China will meet its real test.

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