South China Sea threat: Biden told Trump-style drills must continue to keep Beijing at bay

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The South China Sea has been at the centre of an international battle of wills for years, with Western forces led by the US spearheading efforts to keep China from exerting too much influence over the region. The election of Joe Biden as the 46th US President last month sparked concerns over his strategy towards Beijing as the Chinese Government maintains its hostile stance against Western powers protecting freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea. Dr Krista Wiegand told Government Matters the new Administration should pick up the strategy of pressure followed under Donald Trump to keep China at bay.

The head of the Global Security Program at the University of Tennessee said: “In the last few years, the Trump Administration has increased freedom of navigation operations so that’s really something that should be continued because that’s a signal that the US takes the South China Sea and, particularly, freedom of navigation.

“Another strategy that really should be continued is joint military exercises with Southeast Asian allies, especially those disputing themselves – Vietnam, the Philippines etcetera.

“But also other allies like Japan and Australia, and other allies outside the region like the UK and France, and so on.”

Dr Wiegand insisted it would be too late for the US to force the Chinese to backtrack on artificial islands already built in the South China Sea despite the ongoing territorial dispute but suggested President-elect Biden could avoid more land being taken over by strengthening local alliances.

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She continued: “One thing the US can do is work with other Southeast Asian countries and allies, security partners, to try to slow down the deployment of further militarisation.

“Assets such as putting more equipment on those islands, that’s one thing the US can do.

“Another thing is making it more difficult for China to acquire further maritime features in the South China Sea and build up those features as well.”

President-elect Biden already signalled his commitment to his allies in the area after one of his top advisers said the US stands “shoulder to shoulder’ with Australia as tensions between Canberra and Beijing ramp up.

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The two nations have been at loggerheads for months not only because of the South China Sea but also due to trade.

But the row further soured after the Chinese Foreign Ministry shared a fabricated photograph depicting an Australian soldier murdering a child in Afghanistan.

Mr Biden’s future National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reacted to the doctored image on Twitter, writing:The Australian people have made great sacrifices to protect freedom and democracy around the world.

“As we have for a century, America will stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally Australia and rally fellow democracies to advance our shared security, prosperity, and values.”

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Criticism towards China appeared to unite the US after over a month of divisiveness in the aftermath of the presidential elections on November 3.

US State Department’s deputy spokesman Cale Brown said: “This is a new low, even for the Chinese Communist Party.

“The CCP’s latest attack on Australia is another example of its unchecked use of disinformation and coercive diplomacy.

“Its hypocrisy is obvious to all.”

Senate Intelligence Committee chair Marco Rubio complained to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey about not taking down the controversial image.

Mr Rubio, the senior Republican senator for Florida, wrote: “It defies belief that Twitter is unaware of the image, which falsely portrays an Australian soldier holding a bloody knife to the throat of a young Afghan child, as Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison requested the image be taken down.”

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