Despite the ruling a week ago from the International Criminal Court rejecting China’s claims over the resource-rich South China Sea, China has continued to develop artificial islands and is setting up communication systems on them.
The islands could serve as platforms for China to project military force throughout the region, allowing the control of trade and exploitation of oil reserves. Choosing to ignore the court’s decision is a continuation of the “slow-motion invasion” style of territory grabbing that China’s ally, Putin, utilized in the Ukraine. In light of these developments, the US Navy has been invited to make a port call in New Zealand for the first time in over 30 years.
The 30-year stand-off was due to a conflict between New Zealand’s anti-nuclear laws and America’s policy of neither confirming or denying the presence of nuclear weapons on its ships.
It should be noted that the US Navy has continued to apply their policy of neither confirming nor denying nuclear armaments on their ships, which could serve as a reminder, if not a tacit warning, to any Chinese attempt to impede “freedom of navigation” operations. By caving to the policy and inviting US presence, New Zealand is announcing their opposition to China’s expansionism, serving as an important stepping stone between America and Australia.
In stark contrast to these warming relations, the Incirlik Air Base, and a whole other nuclear matter, may represent a serious setback in US geopolitical positioning. With power to the base still cut off after 6 days, and fuel reserves rumored to hold out for less than a week, some commentators have begun to speculate if the base was being used as a bargaining chip in the fallout of Erdogan’s accusations of American involvement with the recent failed coup. In Okinawa, an unfortunate history of criminal activity involving servicemen has severely soured relations with the Japanese. A protest held two days ago drew over 60,000 people asking for the military bases to be moved out of Okinawa. As China seeks to expand their ability to project force in the South China Sea, the US’s first line of force projection is being contested.