While Western powers are focused on defusing tensions with Russia, China may take advantage of the Ukraine issue and do something “provocative” in Asia, a US general cautioned Wednesday.
The deployment of much more than 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine’s border has sparked worries of an impending invasion in Washington and other Western capitals.
The head of the US Pacific Air Forces, General Kenneth Wilsbach, stated that China had linked itself with Russia in the issue, inquiring about the US’ own ambitions in Asia.
“From the aspect of will China observe what’s going on in Europe and… try to do something here in the Indo-Pacific — definitely yeah, that was a problem,” Wilsbach said, referring to the Asia-Pacific region in a different way. He continued, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Singapore Airshow, “I do have my concerns that they would try to take advantage.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they did anything controversial to see how world community responds.”
Wilsbach said he discussed the consequences of Beijing’s assistance for Russia in the Ukraine crisis with his staff and other “entities” in the region. Wilsbach’s commander, headquartered in Hawaii, would play a key role if a Pacific conflict erupted. As it has increasingly solidified control of important islands and atolls in the South China Sea, Beijing has been criticised for fanning tensions in the region.
Beijing claims nearly the entire sea, although it shares it with Taiwan and four Southeast Asian nations: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Although the US and many Western countries have had no rights to the area, they are concerned that Chinese control will restrict freedom of travel in the vital waterway.
China also has increased the pressure on Taiwan, which it considers its own, by sending fighter jets inside the island’s air defence identification zone in recent months. When China examines problems, Wilsbach says it considers whether “this is an opportunity for gain.”
He didn’t go into detail on what China would do in the Ukraine crisis, merely stating that Beijing has “probably a variety of possibilities.”