While everyone is focused on Trump and Russia, the real story is, I think, China, about which, yesterday, his secretary of state nominee, Exxon's Rex Tillerson, was little short of hair-raising. He suggesting barring China from the atolls in the South China Sea that it is fortifying and militarizing -- and there's only one way to do that: with U.S. air and sea power. In other words, this was a direct call for a military clash with China. And amid the chaos of the Trump news conference yesterday and everything else, including that ludicrous secret "dossier" on Trump, the next possible U.S. war passed almost unnoticed.
"Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, has set the stage for a potential clash with China, saying it should be barred from artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.
Tillerson said China’s control and construction of artificial islands in waters claimed by neighbouring countries was 'akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea.'
"China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, building seven artificial islands on reefs and rocks and outfitting them with military-length airstrips and anti-aircraft guns. 'We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,' Tillerson said during his confirmation hearing to become America’s top diplomat. 'They are taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China’s.'
"The statements are sure to worry China, which has taken an extremely rigid stance on challenges to its sovereignty claims. Last year, an international tribunal ruled much of China’s territorial claims were invalid, but had little effect and the Chinese government ignored the verdict...
"While Tillerson did not elaborate on how the US would bar China from islands in the South China Sea, experts agreed it would have to involve some form of military deployment. 'Blocking China’s access, presumably with US warships, would precipitate a crisis, a military clash,' said Ashley Townshend, a fellow at the University of Sydney’s United States studies centre."