The Trump administration’s muddled and provocative statements about U.S. policy toward China, especially in the contested waters of the South China Sea, have confused allies and aggravated tensions with Beijing, heightening the prospects of a great power conflict.
Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, stunned lawmakers and foreign governments at his Jan. 11 Senate confirmation hearing when he said that the United States would be ready to block China’s access to artificial islands it is building in the South China Sea. Seemingly just a gaffe, the White House later appeared to double down on Tillerson’s stance, which taken at face value would be tantamount to an act of war.
The comments suggest President Donald Trump’s White House is eager to take an aggressive tone with Beijing, but lacks a coherent strategy to deal with China or a basic grasp of the legal and security issues at stake in the South China Sea, said former officials, diplomats, Asia experts and congressional aides.
Read the full article at Foreign Policy.