South China Sea: US strategy makes ‘Biden look soft’ as Australia erupts at rival

South China Sea: Expert on reported missile deployment in 2016

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s willingness to infuriate China, particularly in his latest move to escalate the row over Taiwan, are part of a strategy to ensure that Mr Biden will be perceived as weak, Mr Rudd claimed. He argued that this could see already tense relations hit a new low, leaving many rivals – including Australia – upset at Mr Pompeo’s decisions ahead of Mr Biden’s inauguration later this month. Mr Rudd, leader of Australia in two spells between 2007 and 2013, argued that Mr Pompeo had created “strategic instability” for the international community, and that major losses in the markets could be felt as a result.

Among the many arguments both China and the US has, Taiwan and the South China Sea are becoming key fights as both look to maintain their global superiority.

Mr Pompeo confirmed that the US would lift all “self-imposed restrictions” in relations with Taiwan, an island claimed by China as a territory but self-ruled.

He explained that for several decades the US and Taiwan had “limited contact… as an attempt to appease the Communist regime in Beijing”, but added that restriction would no longer apply.

The move saw China immediately hit back, with Zhao Lijian, a spokesman from the Chinese foreign ministry, confirming the country would take action.

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The nations have previously traded blows over Taiwan, with Beijing patrolling the waters of the island, which is formed within the South China Sea.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen demanded China “open dialogue” with her island, after more ships were seen around the nation.

But Mr Rudd accused Mr Pompeo of scheming to humiliate Mr Biden by taking such an unprecedented stance over Taiwan and the South China Sea, adding: “What Pompeo is doing is laying a whole series of landmines for the incoming Biden administration… salting the earth in the US-China relationship in general, and laying landmines on Taiwan in particular.”

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By having such a hardline approach on China, if Mr Biden were to ease the tensions back, he could be perceived as “going soft”, Mr Rudd claimed.

He told CNBC that the decision made by Mr Pompeo “could mark the end of the one China policy”, which is a primary principle that recognises there is only one Chinese government.

The now-President of Asia Society Policy Institute said: “That has been the mainstay of strategic stability for the last 40 years or so.

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“I think we need to understand that we are moving to the end of the ‘one China policy.’ And what does that mean for markets? What does that mean for the international community?

“It means a new period of real strategic instability given this is a fundamental item of faith in Beijing.”

This will no doubt throw matters of the South China Sea into even starker focus.

China claims sovereignty to the waters, a claim disputed by the like of the US, and Beijing’s neighbours including Taiwan.

Since coming to power in 2016, Ms Tsai has seen China interrupt all communications with Taiwan, despite persistent calls to change this tactic.

Part of the reason for this was that Beijing demanded Ms Tsai first admit Taiwan was part of China.

Further fuelling unrest, Ms Tsai delivered a New Year’s speech to her nation, which reminded citizens Taiwan would “not advance rashly” in relations with China, and “will stick to our principles”.

She added: “As long as the Beijing authorities are determined to defuse antagonism and improve cross-strait relations, in line with the principles of reciprocity and dignity, we are willing to jointly promote meaningful dialogue.”

Her speech came as China issued a warning to the US after two American warships transited the Taiwan Strait earlier this month.

The Chinese army has subsequently been on high alert and “ready to counter any threats or provocations,” according to Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The US Navy argued it was carrying out a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” to ensure “a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

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