Simplistic to pin blame for recent tensions solely on China

For an issue as complex as the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it would seem simplistic to pin the blame for recent tensions solely on China ("Danger of normalising 'might is right'"; Feb 29).

Granted, China has done its own part to add fuel to the fire by engaging in aggressive land reclamation, runway construction and, most recently, the deployment of missile launchers.

This was done in defiance of the general principles and expressed wishes of the international community.

However, while American leaders have endeavoured to paint themselves as the protagonists in this conflict, many of their own actions have contributed towards the escalation of the issue. The involvement of the United States cannot be completely excused.

For example, as part of its broader "pivot to Asia", the US has recently established or reactivated eight military bases in the Philippines, as well as deployed littoral combat ships in Asian waters ("Philippine court okays US use of military bases"; Jan 13).

It has dispatched destroyers and warplanes in close proximity to islands China claims, under the auspices of freedom of navigation exercises.

The Chinese leadership has been rendered deeply cynical by decades of prejudice and strategic action against its nation in various political and economic arenas.

Thus, it is not hard to see how the US actions would have been interpreted at best as potential threats to national security and at worst as deliberate brinkmanship and provocation.

It is also completely understandable that China's next logical step would be to enhance its military presence and defences in the South China Sea against this perceived threat, culminating in the stand-off we see today.

That being said, I concur with Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan's assessment that both China and the US must learn to understand each other's intentions and concerns ("War is unlikely but distrust runs deep"; Feb 27).

Flexing military muscle might be second nature for world powers so accustomed to the indiscriminate use of force to achieve their own national interests, but in an increasingly multi-polar political landscape, a greater degree of tact and restraint would be welcome.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi