Tensions over South China Sea escalated once again when China flight-tested a civilian plane on an artificial land built over the Spratlys. Claimants strongly object the flight, with United States saying it threatens regional stability. A historian offered a solution to the dispute: hand the rest of the islands to Taiwan.
Writing for the Huffington Post, historian Mahlon Meyer suggests that the solution to the South China Sea controversy is to have Taiwan “own” the contested islands. He is the author of “remembering China from Taiwan: divided families and bittersweet reunions after the Chinese Civil War.”
Meyer notes that China claims Taiwan as its own. “So if we respect China’s claim to Taiwan, and Taiwan takes over all the islands, it’s still China governing them. In this way, China can appease the U.S. too,” he wrote.
He further explains that Taiwan can be China’s proxy. “Since Taiwan is a U.S. ally and part of the U.S. security network, the U.S. can relax and believe, for the moment at least, that an utterly friendly ally is in charge,” he wrote.
On Saturday, China landed a civilian plane on an artificial island built on South China Sea. This is the first time it used a runway in the contested region, Reuters reports. The runway it used for the test flight is 3,000 meters and built from seven reefs, making it capable of hosting long-range bombers and jet fighters.
Vietnam objected the move and filed a formal diplomatic protest against China. Philippines expressed fears that China will take control of South China Sea, depriving other nations freedom of navigation and overflight. Indeed, Ian Storey, an expert on the South China Sea conflict, told Reuters that China’s moves aim at projecting power over the contested region.
John Kirby, spokesman for the State Department, said that the government is concerned by the move. To begin flight operations in the region would raise tensions and threaten regional stability, he said during a press briefing. The government called for all claimants to stop land reclamation, development of new facilities and militarization of the region.
Meyer believes otherwise. “I say to the world: let China continue to build artificial islands in the South China Sea, but let it renounce ownership and hand them over to Taiwan,” he wrote. Another solution would be transforming South China Sea into “another Antarctica where resources are guaranteed to everyone but military bases are forbidden.”