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21 Mar, 2015

Chinese Commentary: America the Kibitzer on South China Sea

BEIJING, March 21 (Xinhua) — Uncle Sam has long been in the grip of many addictions, such as muscle-flexing, preaching and borrowing, but there has turned out to be one more: kibitzing.

The latest symptom of the obsession with unwanted counseling emerged into plain sight earlier this week, when Robert Thomas, commander of the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet, whose country is not a party in the South China Sea disputes, advised ASEAN countries to form a combined maritime force for joint South China Sea patrols and even called for more Japanese involvement.

The urge for presumptuous commenting escalated to a call for naked intervention on Thursday, as a handful of U.S. big-name senators, in a letter to State Secretary John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter, wrongfully pointed an accusing finger at China and clamored for a U.S. strategy to stop what is actually China’s legitimate activity in South China Sea.

Such outside kibitzing, not to mention outright meddling, is way out of line for a party that has publicly committed itself not to taking sides on the South China Sea disputes, which are between China and some Southeast Asian nations.

That borders on double-dealing. The commander’s proposal smacks of a thinly veiled attempt to cobble together a coalition on the opposite side of China, and the senators’ cry sounds like a scheme to stoke misunderstanding and mistrust in a region where Washington is bent on keeping its hegemonic presence.

But the machination is fraught with faulty assumptions and doomed to fail. For starters, one troublemaker cannot alter the overwhelming commitment of parties involved in the South China Sea disputes to safeguarding regional stability and solving the issue through peaceful means.

Southeast Asian countries are clear-eyed enough to see through the U.S. calculus and perceive the hidden agenda behind Washington’s overt enthusiasm, and thus refrain from being led astray by the pied piper of the United States.

Meanwhile, despite the incessant hyping of the “China threat” cliche, the freedom of navigation at South China Sea has never been a problem. The true risk is that relentless exaggeration might someday achieve its sinister goal of sowing discord and eventually throw up waves in the busy body of water.

Thus what Washington should focus on is not the “alarming scope and pace of” what China is doing, but the “alarming scope and pace of” the U.S. meddling, not least the emboldening effect of its “pivot to Asia” strategy on certain hotheads around the South China Sea.

It is high time that Uncle Sam stop making irresponsible remarks and retract his meddlesome hands, so as to allow the parties directly involved in the South China Sea disputes to proceed in their own peaceful way.