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Tillerson’s Belligerent Remarks Bode Ill for US-Chinese Relations: Scholar

US Secretary of State designate Rex Tillerson's intemperate and belligerent remarks during his confirmation hearing bode ill for the future of US-China relations under the Donald Trump presidency, according to Professor Dennis Etler, an American political analyst who has a decades-long interest in international affairs.

Etler, a professor of Anthropology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, told Press TV in an interview on Thursday that China will not be bullied by US gunboat diplomacy.

During his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, President-elect Trump's pick for secretary of state expounded on US-China relations. In his bombshell testimony Tillerson directly challenged China's action in the South China Sea stating, We're going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.

The failure of a response has allowed them just to keep pushing the envelope on this. The way we've got to deal with this is we've got to show backup in the region with our traditional allies in Southeast Asia, and, I think, use the existing structure to begin the re-engagement, he continued.

Tillerson went on the criticize China's relations with North Korea as being unhelpful, stressing that China has made empty promises to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

'Tillerson Has No Prior Experience in Diplomacy'

Professor Etler told Press TV that Tillerson's intemperate and belligerent remarks illustrate the fact that he has no prior experience in diplomacy or the formulation of foreign policy. In other remarks, Tillerson has said that he has not consulted with Trump on major foreign policy issues.

The question then arises as to whether Tillerson's remarks reflect the thinking of Trump and his other military and national security advisers or are the impromptu musings of an inexperienced statesman with no professional background in diplomacy, he stated.

In either case Tillerson's remarks are worrisome. In the first instance, they reflect a mindset that if implemented could create the conditions for a direct military confrontation between the two superpowers, the analyst said.

For China, the South China Sea is an integral part of the Chinese nation to which it has laid claim for centuries. Any attempt to exclude or prevent China from exercising its sovereign rights in the area is a threat to its territorial integrity that cannot be tolerated. As a result it is politically impossible for the Chinese government to comply with Tillerson's demands if it is to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of its own people, he noted.

Is Tillerson Loose Cannon?

If, on the other hand, Tillerson's remarks have not been thoroughly vetted by the incoming administration, it suggests that Tillerson is a loose cannon who does not appreciate the impact that hasty remarks can have in framing the Trump administration's future relations with China, Professor Etler said.

In either case it does not bode well for the future of US-China relations during the Trump presidency. China will not be bullied by US gunboat diplomacy. When the US felt threatened by Soviet deployment of forces to Cuba in the early 1960s it responded with an embargo and blockade of the island that sent the world to the precipice of a nuclear apocalypse. The Cuban Missile Crisis became the defining moment of the confrontation between the two superpowers during the latter half of the 20th century, the political analyst said.

China will react to US attempts to impose its will in China's own backyard in a similar fashion. It will not be countenanced. Either Tillerson, as the potential voice of US foreign policy, is making empty threats attempting to scare China into compliance with the imperial wishes of the US or it will have to back up its hostile words with actions that could lead to unforeseen consequences, he stated.

US Won't Find Many 'Allies' against China

Tillerson suggests that the US will attempt to recruit its 'allies' in the region to challenge China's claims to the South China Sea. But ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) has refused to condemn China's actions and has stated that the conflicting claims should be settled regionally without outside interference, Professor Etler explained.

Other claimants to the South China Sea or portions thereof such as the Philippines and Malaysia have sought to engage China bilaterally. Taiwan, which is recognized as a province of China by all concerned, as a proxy for the defunct Republic of China, also lays claim to the very same territory as does the PRC (People's Republic of China). Vietnam which also has claims to large swaths of the South China Sea has close but still contentious relations with China, he said.

The question thus arises, who are the US allies that can be recruited to support it in a confrontation with China? The only nations who might do so, such as Japan and India, are not party to the disputed status of the South China Sea and like the US are interlopers who have no legitimate reason to interfere as China has clearly stated that it will not restrict internationally recognized freedoms to navigate through the region. It is China that fears US interdiction of its own vital trade and supply routes that led to its assertion of sovereignty to begin with, the political commentator said.

'China Won't Be Cowed by US Intransigence'

If the US under Trump's leadership attempts to stop China from exercising its sovereign rights in the South China Sea and deny her access to the islands it claims the world will be faced with a calamitous situation that is totally unnecessary, he said.

There is one and only one reason for US belligerence towards China. It sees China as the major threat to its continued imperialist ambitions and global hegemony, the pundit emphasized.

China, however, will not be cowed by US intransigence. Any attempt by the US to impose its will on China will result in a grave threat to global peace and security, Professor Etler concluded.

Source: Al Alam News Network

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