Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the People’s Liberation Army to “prepare for combat” as a measure against possible hostile U.S. action in the South China Sea after an international tribunal ruled that Beijing had no exclusive control over the area.
“The Permanent Court of Arbitration said there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources,” reports the BBC. China responded by labeling the ruling “ill-founded” and refused to be bound by it.
However, behind the scenes, Xi Jinping fears that the U.S. could seize on the ruling to justify aggressive military maneuvers in the area and has ordered PLA forces to prepare for war.
“Chinese president Xi Jinping has reportedly ordered the People’s Liberation Army to prepare for combat,” reports Arirang.com. “U.S.-based Boxun News said Tuesday that the instruction was given in case the United States takes provocative action in the waters once the ruling is made.”
A U.S. aircraft carrier and fighter jets were already sent to the region in anticipation of the ruling, with the Chinese Navy also carrying out exercises near the disputed Paracel islands.
Last October, China said it was “not frightened” to fight a war with the U.S. following an incident where the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen violated the 12-nautical mile zone China claims around Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago.
China’s Navy has repeatedly issued warnings to U.S. surveillance planes flying over the region. Experts have warned that an accidental collision between aircraft, similar to a 2001 incident which led to an international controversy, could spark a deadly conflict. According to Michael Auslin, a war between the two superpowers is more likely than at any point in the last 20 years.
Last year, billionaire investor George Soros also cautioned that the ruling Communist Party may see fit to rally its population around an external threat in order to head off a societal collapse in the aftermath of an economic implosion. “There is a real danger that China will align itself with Russia politically and militarily, and then the threat of third world war becomes real,” said Soros.