Steady pursuit of peace, but ready for anything

Updated: 2016-04-25 07:32

(China Daily)

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Steady pursuit of peace, but ready for anything

A warship sails in South China Sea during a Chinese navy drill in South China Sea, July 28, 2015. [Photo/CFP]

Washington deservedly received a warning and reminder from Beijing about the dangers of saber-rattling, after US warplanes conducted what the United States called a freedom of overflight operation near China's Huangyan Islands.

This seems a weird claim since planes of all countries pass through the airspace without any trouble. The same is true of the US' so-called freedom of navigation operations.

The US military appears obsessed with something that is simply not an issue.

But what is happening, and may come up next, in the South China Sea goes far beyond jurisprudential common sense as well as divergent readings of international law.

It is because of geopolitical calculations rather than international justice that Washington is rushing to the forefront of the maritime disputes with Beijing. It is dusting off its long-neglected military alliance with the Philippines. It is seeking closer military relationships with India and Vietnam. It is dragging the Japanese military into the South China Sea.

Despite all the ear-pleasing diplomatic rhetoric from Washington, about not choosing sides, about peace and negotiated solutions, the hawkish Pentagon is making it increasingly clear that it will not give up until real trouble emerges in the South China Sea.

The China-US standoff is going beyond the exchange of verbal swords, and is increasingly taking the form of hostile, though as yet by-and-large restrained, military encounters.

Beijing's aspiration for a new-type major-country relationship is a blessing for all peace-minded countries and peoples. But it takes two to tango. In the South China Sea, at least at this moment, the US does not want to dance with China.

Washington may not acknowledge it, but the two countries' militaries appear to be on a collision course.

Which is why Beijing must be prepared.

However, things are not yet irreparable. As long as Beijing considers the South China Sea a core national interest, as long as it prioritize development at home, as long as it remains committed to sustaining a peaceful environment for domestic development, as long as it aspires to become a different kind of big power, it should avail itself of every possibility to avoid military solutions to territorial disputes.

The consensuses Foreign Minister Wang Yi has achieved in his visits to Brunei, Cambodia and the Laos are laudable diplomatic attempts that help set the stage for broader consultations.

Since real solutions rest ultimately on agreements between China and claimant countries, Beijing should work harder to seek breakthroughs through one-on-one negotiations.