China

China seizes Covid-19 advantage in South China Sea

With the Covid-19 pandemic mostly contained in China and now wreaking havoc on the United States, security analysts are closely watching Beijing’s military moves in the hotly contested South China Sea.

In recent days, China has conducted military drills and deployed large-scale military assets to the maritime area while at the same time officially celebrating strides made in exploiting disputed energy resources in the fossil fuel-rich sea.

While some see China’s nationalistic messaging as a bid to rally its people during difficult Covid-19 times, others view the increasingly aggressive naval maneuvers as a bid to exploit America’s weakened condition to secure new advantage in the hot spot theater.

Rival Southeast Asian claimants are also in a compromised strategic position as they contend with worsening Covid-19 outbreaks.

The Philippines and Malaysia, both at territorial loggerheads with China in the sea, have both recently placed their administrative and commercial capitals under weeks-long, military-enforced lockdowns.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and top security officials including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana are in self-imposed quarantines, with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Felimon Santos Jr recently testing positive for Covid-19

The Philippines and Malaysia, both at territorial loggerheads with China in the sea, have both recently placed their administrative and commercial capitals under weeks-long, military-enforced lockdowns.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and top security officials including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana are in self-imposed quarantines, with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Felimon Santos Jr recently testing positive for Covid-19.

The US, the long-term guarantor of the region’s law-based order, is now grappling with the world’s worst outbreak with nearly 190,000 cases, forcing the White House to implement extraordinary measures including the largest economic stimulus package in its history.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, has been mobilized to help combat the epidemic under the Defense Production Act, which allows the US military to provide critical health services, and produce and transfer desperately-needed medical equipment to civilian agencies and facilities.

Read more at Asia Times

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Richard Javad Heydarian

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