By Peter Greste, Justin Stevens and Alex McDonald
One of the United States’ most senior ex-military officers has warned that China and the US risk open conflict over the South China Sea because of basic misunderstandings between the two nations.
- China’s claims to about 90 per cent of the South China Sea are “intolerable” for the US
- Senior US ex-militant officer calls on AFD to work with the US
- Julie Bishop says Australia was never asked to take part in territorial water disputes
The former head of National Intelligence and US Pacific Command, retired Admiral Dennis Blair, told Four Corners he does not believe either America or China want to go to war to end the stand-off.
But both sides are locked into opposing positions that make it almost impossible to reach a compromise, he said.
The South China Sea is one of the most disputed regions on Earth, with competing claims over islands and reefs from various countries, including traditional US ally the Philippines.
China has laid claim to a swathe of shoals and islands inside what is known as the “Nine-Dash Line”, which represents about 90 per cent of the South China Sea.
“When I’m in discussions with Chinese [officials] I’m incredibly righteous from the American point of view,” retired Admiral Blair said.
“I think there’s a notable inability for the two of us to understand what’s going on, on the other side and to find compromises we can both live with.”
Previously unreleased satellite images obtained by Four Corners show that as recently as last month, Chinese construction crews were continuing engineering works to turn submerged coral atolls into well-developed island bases.
Chinese coast guard vessels have kept foreign fishing boats well away from those islands and warned aircraft from flying over their airspace.
Retired admiral Blair said China’s claims were “intolerable” for the US and the impasse created a situation in which neither side can be seen to be backing down.
“We seem to have to deal by a series of concessions or wins, and that’s the kind of relationship that can escalate up over time,” he said.
Tags: ASEAN, China, Chinese construction, Dennis Blair, militarisation, militarization, neither side can be seen to be backing down, nine-dash line, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Philippines, retired admiral Dennis Blair, Singapore, South China Sea, U.S., US Pacific Command, Vietnam