When KL was in America about a month ago, a man stopped me while I was doing my exercise walk at the nearby stadium. He said he is a Physics Teacher at a local high school and wanted to practice his English.
I am almost always happy to talk to people, altho I can’t walk and talk at the same time. Lest you think this qualifies me to be President, stop. I have trouble breathing in the hot, humid morning air and talking takes the little oxygen I have away and makes walking difficult. Thirty plus years of smoking had more than a lot to do with this mild emphysema, but there’s not much I can do about that.
But I digress. In the conversation the man asked me if I thought there would soon be a war with China over the islands in the Eastern Sea (called Spratly Islands in English, Quan Dao Hoang Sa in Vietnamese). Now I must admit that my record of predicting wars is atrocious–having read the book by Seymour Topping, JOURNEY BETWEEN TWO CHINAS and being as amazed as Mr. Topping was that Kennedy got us into a war with Viet Nam, and declaring as ludicrous an Italian friend’s statement that “America will go to war” sitting in his home in Florence the day after 9-11–I am probably the last person to ask if a war is imminent.
There had been a number of articles in the English Language newspaper here about Chinese harassing and even incarcerating Vietnamese fisherman, and about Viet protests and diplomatic measures being taken to stop the Chinese incursions, but they only spoke of irritation, not belligerent conflict. I also could not imagine Vietnam waging a sea war with China, as the Vietnamese seem to have a small navy made up of small patrol boats. At the same time I had said that China had best stop the provocations, as the last time they tried Vietnam kicked their ass and made China sue for peace.
With all that in mind, I told my new acquaintance that I did NOT think there would be a war, and we agreed to disagree. Today I am not so sure.
China recklessly has built a military garrison on the Hoang Sa Islands. This provocation will not be tolerated by Viet Nam. In addition, China has interfered with Philippine traffic and fishing in the Sea, and the Philippines are not going to sit on their hands and let China push them into a space with extremely limited area. Likewise Taiwan reports mainland China causing trouble in the area. While I am not aware of any treaties between the USA and Viet Nam, I am certain that there are mutual defense pacts with America and Taiwan and the Philippines.
If I know of these things you can be sure that China does too, and has chosen this pre-US Elections to see just how far they can push without America sending battle groups to defend Taiwan, the Philippines, and yes, even perhaps Vietnam. No sitting President could justify a war with China unless America was attacked first. The Quemoy-Matsu card was played a long time ago. There is little to give America a reason to go to war over, especially with the November elections growing ever closer.
You can think what you want, but last night an army officer came to our door asking for donations to help the army. I missed the 62-73 Viet Nam war. It is beginning to look like I may not miss the 2012-?? one.