Because there has so much shake up in Trump’s inner circle—not to mention the investigation into his connections to Russia—his administration has been late in formulating the right team to iron out a strategy on the South China Sea and have been playing catch up.
So for the first year of Trump’s presidency they’ve basically been following leftover aspects of President Barack Obama’s policy in the region, which is to support open commercial navigation through the Pacific and Indian oceans…
“(Serving) as the main corridor between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the sea carries one-third of global maritime trade, worth over $5 trillion, each year, $1.2 trillion of it going to or from the United States,” Ratner stated in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs. “The sea’s large oil and gas reserves and its vast fishing grounds, which produce 12 percent of the world’s annual catch, provide energy and food for Southeast Asia’s 620 million people.”
Also serving as a distraction to handling the South China Sea more intensely has been it’s attempt to contain North Korea, Ratner said on Thursday.
The Trump administration has been “laser focused” on North Korea, “at the expense of everything else,” the analyst said. “There’s a chance that in the next few months we’ll see a better strategy coming out.”
Let’s hope so. As Ratner and various other South China Sea observers have pointed out, the ability for China to take control of the sea would tilt the balance of power in the region to their favor. But could tilt the entire Asian continent their way if they controlled a commercial waterway with so much commerce passing through it on a daily basis.