Threats in South China Sea unlikely to materialise

No one can stop China's rapid progress economically and militarily.

Any talk about a conspiracy against China or containing it in the South China Sea must be met by the question: What purpose will it serve?

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen is right in stating that the United States' presence in the Asia-Pacific region cannot be solely for containing China's rise ("US requires 'greater economic presence' in Asia-Pacific"; Dec 5).

China's land reclamation and the building of runways on islets in the South China Sea must have taken months to complete, and were in open view.

The rise in tension over the past 11 months cannot be about these.

It is unlikely that China will use the runways to mount air attacks on Asean.

Any blockade of sea lanes or shutdown of the airspace over the South China Sea will do no one any good. It is foolhardy to think of it in the first place.

To do so, it will have to station a big military force on the islets, which will be seen well in advance.

I also do not believe the islets are large enough to hold a big attacking force.

Rather, one should look at the runways as a way for China to widen its air defence strategic line to protect Hainan Island and the southern coastal areas of China from attacks coming from the sea.

Any blockade of sea lanes or shutdown of the airspace over the South China Sea will do no one any good.

It is foolhardy to think of it in the first place.

The US military presence in the Pacific, Far East and South China Sea is to ensure freedom of navigation for all using the Singapore Strait and Malacca Strait.

For tensions to decrease, all nations should accept that the various negative concerns and scenarios in the South China Sea are unlikely to take place.

Tan Kok Tim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2016, with the headline 'Threats in South China Sea unlikely to materialise'. Subscribe