South East Asia is in the grip of new cold war. There are two clear signals, after the Hague International Tribunals ‘verdict which clearly rejected the Chinese claim on the sea; the first is that China- Russia have come together on the issue of South China Sea, this is visible as Russia and China have decided to organize a joint drill in the disputed sea, second US has decided to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea which Seoul has accepted.
USA feels that deployment is necessary to protect it from North Korea but this logic has been rejected by China. According to the Xinhua News Agency the ‘THAAD, which has a 200 km-range for intercepting missiles, is to be set up some 300 km southeast of Seoul in Seongju county, far from the border with the DPRK. That means the capital and the surrounding areas, the country’s most populated region, will not be protected. While Washington’ s reasoning for the THAAD deployment is untenable, its self-serving motivation sticks out a mile. THAAD’ s X-band radar is believed to have a detection range as far as 2,000 km in forward-based mode. Thus once placed in South Korea, the United States would be able to peer conveniently deep into China and imposing a grave threat to the security interests of the two countries and to regional peace.’
Russia has also come out in open to support China on the deployment. Russian stand is that such deployment will jeopardize the stability in the region and its impact will be quite serious which Russia has termed as the ‘irreparable consequences.’ Russian statement has wider meaning as Russia and China have come closer on several issues in the recent time; from Iran nuclear deal to fate of Assad in Syria they share almost similar sentiments. They have also exhibited the close cooperation in the form of the naval exercises which are symbolic show that ‘We are together’. They had such exercise in 2014 when they went for naval exercises in East China Sea and the last year was the turn of China to show its closeness to Russia when they did the same in the Black sea and the Mediterranean sea. The Russian President Putin has frequented his visits to China; China on the other hand has decided to bolster its economic conditions. Russia has allowed China to play a big role in Central Asia particularly in infrastructure and economic development. The indications are clear that two groups in world have emerged and a kind of balance of power exist.
The world is changing very fast as the allies are turning the foes as Turkey -US relations have declined in the recent time due to Turkish thinking that in the attempted coup US had some interests. In the meantime Turkey and Russia have attempted to sort out their differences. US is itself attempting to forge a close alliance in the region in which it wants Japan, South Korea and Australia to play an important role, the India is also on invitation list but still its role is unclear. US has its traditional allies in the region since the start of cold war. The Russia and China used to be close but the decade of 1960s saw the sharp decline of their relationship but they have now decided to mend the fences and this sea change is basically an initiative of Putin. He wants to resurrect the bipolar world and to redeem the lost prestige of Russia. China knows that for its economic development Russia is useful as well for balancing the US might its utility is unparallel.
The deployment of the THAAD missile is therefore quite important development for the region though it may take more than one year to make it operational but the serious criticism from China and Russia show that new cold war is on visit. The nature of this war has several new elements which differ from the previous age. The new cold war is not ideological in nature but it is aimed to control the resources and power system, for China the resource considerations are more prominent than any other thing. The control on South China Sea is mainly for the resource control. The closeness with Russia is propelled due to resource hunt which the Russia can offer. Russia in near future will be major exploring country of the oil- gas resource in the Arctic region and being so close China cannot disown Russia, same way Russia also does not want to lose Syria because it offers a sea avenue for resources in MENA. For US the power maintenance and resource mobilization are the major objective; hence the control of the South China Sea and to lead its allies is natural policy. It never wants a bipolar or multi polar world. It wants to remain a unilateral power in the world.
New allies are being scouted upon, India is such an ally. US is well aware that India has divorced itself from the nonalignment policy and in the name of the pragmatic foreign policy New Delhi can be brought within its orbit of influence. The new cold war has important role for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria which may emerge influential players.
The deployment of THAAD if is supported by more intervention by US in the region then the Chinese-Russian reaction will be more stringent. The Chinese policy is clear that it will not allow any state to have any stake in the South China Sea. US for the time being has collaborated with its allies Japan, Australia to play the issue down but what is the threshold of it is very difficult to know, when this new cold war will change into hot war is also difficult to predict; but world has moved into a new phase that is now well established after the deployment of THAAD.
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is Vice Chairman CSSP, Consultant CRIEPS, e email@example.com