To Arm or Not to Arm: The Case Against Arming Vietnam and the Philippines
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV NORFOLK VA JOINT ADVANCED WARFIGHTING SCHOOL
Pagination or Media Count:
As one manifestation of the tense U.S.-China relationship, the South China Sea represents an area where conflicting interests between China and the United States and its regional partners create the key ingredients for a regional conflict. Dozens of incidents at sea occur annually that raise the risk that a minor event may escalate into armed conflict. The lack of a diplomatic resolution to the territorial disputes, and the growing perception of Chinese assertiveness have encouraged the Obama administration to initiate stronger efforts to balance and deter Chinese power by equipping Vietnam and the Philippines with defensive weapons. To date, the public debate on this policy within the national security community lacks sufficient intellectual depth to evaluate its wisdom. By analyzing the pros and cons, one can better comprehend the implications of this decision. Despite the perceived benefits, this policy decision is more likely to reinforce Chinese fears of American efforts to contain China, and fails to fully appreciate the strategic environment the increasingly antagonistic U.S.-Sino rhetoric, Chinese motives for asserting influence in the South China Sea, Chinese strategic culture, and the importance of other strategic issues. As an alternative, the United States should exercise strategic restraint and seek to avoid arming regional partners in the South China Sea as a vehicle to pursue diplomatic resolution of the current territorial disputes, decrease overall tensions, and improve the strategic U.S.-Sino relationship.
- Government and Political Science