Will Beijing and Washington engage in a military confrontation in the South China Sea over Taiwan?

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Will Beijing and Washington engage in a military confrontation in the South China Sea over Taiwan?

In recent years, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and the Philippines have all claimed sovereignty over parts of the South China Sea, making it one of East Asia’s most contentious regions. From Singapore to the Taiwan Strait, the Pacific Ocean spans approximately three and a half square kilometres, offering abundant energy resources and a significant maritime trade route, not to mention habitat for diverse marine species. There have been endless conflicts between rival nations as a result of these rich resources, as well as the region’s geopolitical importance. South China is regarded as an energy transit route by other international competitors such as the United States, Australia, and India. Furthermore, China’s rising strength has also led them to search for means to counterbalance it. By 2030, China is projected to surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy. As their economic and commercial supremacy increases, the Chinese are rapidly expanding their military capabilities and extending their armed forces, to the point where China now has the world’s second-largest military budget, after the United States. In response to the growing Chinese military threats, particularly in the South China Sea, the Pentagon has prioritized its activities in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. Protecting Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, and especially Taiwan against Chinese encroachment is deemed as a top priority for the US, according to senior US officials. As a result, the US, together with its allies Australia and the UK, has developed its military presence in the South China Sea. Apart from disputing China’s maritime claims, the United States is trying to establish a warning zone or air patrol over the South China Sea to deter alleged Chinese interference with the sovereignty of US allies. However, Beijing currently remains the unchallenged force in this area. By deploying three aircraft carriers in the Taiwan Strait, the United States is aggressively attempting to thwart China’s military agendas, which Washington perceives as an impending danger to its national security. By deploying three aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, particularly in the Taiwan Strait and surrounding areas, the US is actively trying to impede China’s military ambitions to expand its naval and air dominance, as well as what the US considers an imminent threat to its national security. Due to a long history of mistrust, Chinese and Americans frequently stage military drills in the South China Sea, aggravating an already dangerous situation. The renewed hostilities over Taiwan have heightened Sino-US tensions in the region, which may explode into a full-fledged military conflict.

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