U.S., China Escalating South China Sea Dispute After Hague Ruling

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It has barely been a week since the Permanent Court of Arbitration?s (PCA) recent Hague ruling in favor of the Philippines against China, but, as predicted, tensions are already mounting high in the South China Sea region. Things have gone pretty sour between the two world powers, i.e. the U.S. and China, and their power posturing suggests an inevitable war ahead that could potentially unleash events leading to WWIII.

The United Nations backed the PCA ruling that the 9-dash line of China?s claims over the South China Sea was illegal according to the United Nations Convention of the Law of Sea. However, in response, China called last week?s ruling as ?illegal? and ?null and void? while the U.S. and the Philippines urged them to respect the court?s verdict.

The very same day, Beijing in efforts to signal its strength, warned both the Philippines and the U.S. about the seriousness of their claim on the South China Sea region and released a photo of a nuclear-capable Chinese bomber flying south near the Scarborough Shoal.

The Scarborough Shoal has been the bone of contention between Philippines and China and along with Spratly and Paracel islands are part of the heavily contested region to which multiple countries including Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have laid claim.

As per?Forbes reports, the photo released to the Chinese social media site Weibo by the People?s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) depicted the H-6K bomber which is capable of delivering nuclear-armed cruise missile to all major U.S. military bases in Asia, including Singapore, Guam, Okinawa, and Yokosuka (near Tokyo).

The U.S. could reply to the Chinese H-6K flight over Scarborough by executing and publicizing its own nuclear-capable flight over the South China Sea in the near future. Such a response, however, would invite the ire of the Chinese and given the timing, such any untoward incident could only lead to a war. Additionally, the U.S. is also strengthening its presence in the disputed region with an ever-increasing number of warships in the South China Sea. Over the past several months, Washington has been involved in the ?freedom of navigation operations? that even raised tensions with the Chinese earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the cornered Chinese could even declare an air defense identification zone over the disputed sea. ?If our security is being threatened, of course we have the right to demarcate a zone,? Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said Wednesday at a briefing in Beijing. ?We hope that other countries will not take this opportunity to threaten China and work with China to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and not let it become the origin of a war.?

However, rather than a peaceful reconciliation, such move would only provoke more tension and escalate into a military confrontation.

With both sides refusing to back down, things are increasingly looking like ?they are set for war and with regional powers choosing sides, the conflict could further engulf the whole world eventually leading to WW3.

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