20 January 2018   Leave a comment

The US sent a destroyer, the USS Hopper, within 12 nautical miles of the Scarborough Shoal, a disputed islet in the South China Sea and the Chinese military ordered the destroyer to leave, claiming that the islet was Chinese territory.   China built up the shoal over the last few years so that it now is permanently above sea level.  International law does not allow such features as artificial islands to constitute sovereignty.  Article 60, Section 8 of the Law of the Sea reads:

“Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf.”

The US has deliberately been sending its vessels within 12 miles of these artificial islands to exercise what it believes to be its right of innocent navigation on the high seas.  An international tribunal has ruled against the Chinese in a suit brought by the Philippines.  But China has ignored that ruling.  The US and China are playing a game of chicken in the dispute and it is unclear which side will blink first.


Turkey has begun military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.  The move follows the US announcement last week that it was going to arm Kurdish and Arab rebels against the Syrian government of Assad.  Turkey fears that US support for the Kurds will embolden them to demand an independent state in northwestern Syria which would only inspire Turkish Kurds to make similar demands.  I suspect that the US promise to arm the Kurds is credible, but opposition to the US move is strong.  According to The Independent:

“Recep Tayip Erdogan has promised to ‘suffocate’ this latest American proxy ‘terror army’, regarding it as a Kurdish force effectively controlled by the ‘terrorist’ Kurdish Workers Party, the PKK. Assad’s government called the enlistment of the new militia a ‘blatant assault’ on Syria’s sovereignty. Russia warned of partition.”

The Kurds will undoubtedly fight back.  Whether the US will back them remains to be seen.  I would advise them not to trust the Trump Administration’s words.


The Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) at the University of Missouri did a poll of trusted news sources in the US earlier in 2017.  The results of the poll are fascinating, although it was limited to US media sources (except for The Guardian, The BBC, and The Economist–although it is instructive to note that the three British publications were highly regarded as trustworthy).  Facebook is apparently trying to gauge trustworthiness and it will be interesting to see the results of that experiment.

Posted January 20, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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