Bannon made his remarks before Trump's election. But does he still think the U.S. will fight a war over territorial disputes in the South China Sea?
The U.S. and China will fight a war within the next 10 years over islands in the South China Sea, and “there’s no doubt about that”, according to Steve Bannon, Trump's top advisor and chief strategist.
In an alarming statement made in March of last year, Bannon predicted during a Breitbart radio broadcast (for those unaware, Bannon is the former head of Breitbart):
We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years. There’s no doubt about that. They’re taking their sandbars and making basically stationary aircraft carriers and putting missiles on those. They come here to the United States in front of our face – and you understand how important face is – and say it’s an ancient territorial sea.
What should we make of this? A few things to note:
- We can thank the Obama administration for its ingenious "Asia pivot" which has resulted in U.S. naval vessels openly provoking the Chinese in a sea named after China.
- What Bannon fails to mention is that China's military build-up in its own Sea is meant to safeguard trade routes vital to China's national interests. It has nothing to do with China being in "our face". That's nonsense.
- There are certainly territorial disputes (a multitude of countries claim ownership of various parts of the South China Sea, and its islands, which are all but uninhabited), but why on earth would this require a war?
We're not arguing that Bannon is begging for war, simply that he has coldly calculated that war with China is inevitable and will come sooner than any of us could imagine. Five years would be at the start of Trump's second term, or Michael Moore's coup regime, depending on whatever variant of the near future you subscribe to.
Here's the thing: For the time being, there doesn't seem to be any eagerness within the Trump administration to aggrivate the already rather tense situation in the South China Sea.
Trump's Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, seems content on maintaing the status quo: "At this time, we do not see any need for dramatic military moves at all," Mattis told a news conference in Tokyo, stressing that the focus should be on diplomacy.
Of course, the status quo could lead to escalation. Escalation is always possible when U.S. vessels are zooming around waters where they don't belong.
But is an actual, conventional war with China inevitable? What would such a war look like, and how would it be fought?
If Bannon is correct, we might all find out in five years.
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