South China Sea: Joe Biden warned of ‘actual conflict’ as soon as he becomes US President

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The South China Sea has been the subject of conflict fears in recent years as the US and other nations attempt to stop China’s aggressive militarisation of the region. President Donald Trump has sent US vessels into the contested waters in an attempt to deter Beijing’s forces, with experts warning this could lead to an accidental conflict. With the US election going down to the wire, America’s actions in the South China Sea could become Joe Biden’s responsibility soon. The New York Times reported last month that there is a risk of increased hostility given China’s recent rhetoric. The report said: “The militaristic tone reflects the hawkishness of Xi. The risk is that the propaganda could translate into more provocative actions.

“Recent military moves in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait raise the possibility of actual clashes, intended or not.”

Mr Biden has warned he will be tough on China if he is to win the Presidency.

Liz Economy, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, said this week: “I think the most significant China-related policy shifts in a Biden administration may be a renewed commitment to US leadership in addressing global challenges such that China cannot capture and contort the global governance system to suit its narrow interests.”

She also said “greater consultation with our allies and partners to forge a consistent and coherent China strategy” is needed.

Ms Economy added: “Recalibration of the US-China relationship that could include reestablishing the bilateral dialogue and exploring areas of common purpose in order to avoid the relationship spiralling into a cold war.”

Last year, expert on the Chinese politics Kerry Brown warned communications between Chinese and US military are worse than that seen in the Cold War.

He told “At the moment dialogue between the US and China military to military is poor, some people say that it’s worse than between the USSR and the US during the Cold War.

“There was a lot more contact then than there is now with China, therefore misunderstandings are horribly, horribly possible.”

Echoing this, Professor Brown warned conflict was a real possibility.

“Absolutely [conflict could ensue] that’s the First World War scenario that the Japanese Prime Minister spoke about a few years ago, all you need is one trigger or another to create a chain of tension.

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“There is plenty of scope for misunderstanding, I think in the last ten years there has been a few near misses and close encounters between US and Chinese ships, you just need one of those to go amiss.

“There was one instance where I think ships passed within 10 metres of each other. It’s simple to see how scenarios like that can escalate.”

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