US arms sales jeopardize cooperation, stability in Asia-Pacific

The US Department of Defense announced on Friday the sale of 34 surveillance drones to four countries in the South China Sea region – Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The sale seemed to be in line with the Pentagon’s newly released Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, details of which show the US’ goal of containing China. Reuters reported on Tuesday that “the drones would afford greater intelligence gathering capabilities potentially curbing Chinese activity in the region.”

However, if we take a second look at the manufacturer of those ScanEagle drones, Boeing Co, we can discern that the US does not necessarily mean to assist those allies in the South China Sea region, where China has been defamed by accusations of “behaving like a ‘bully,'” but to make money.

Due to the deadly crashes of Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jets, the aviation giant has seen the biggest slump in its share price since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, according to Time magazine. That a US company is suffering in the international market is too inconsistent with US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy. Amid increasing tensions between China and the US due to the trade war, the Trump administration is happy to let US firms make money, especially if it also provokes China.

In light of this, if we look back at the US’ attempts to hit DJI, China’s leading drone manufacturer, we will not view these attempts as absurd as they first seemed.

Even though Trump has taken office, his business nature doesn’t fade. He will do anything as long as the US can make a profit and not be taken advantage of, despite sacrificing anyone else’s interests.

This is why he has started trade wars around the globe and sells US drones while cracking down on drones made by Chinese companies.

The US has been selling arms to Asia-Pacific countries, to which it is paying more attention. The arms sales will bind these countries to the US, because if you buy US equipment, it comes as a whole package, including support equipment and technical services. The US will make sure its equipment cannot be used in combination with technology from other countries. As a result, the buyers of US arms will eventually face a choice – either meet any demand of the US or have no other option to update their military equipment.

In its Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, the US described China as a “Revisionist Power.” Then on Saturday during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said the US will not ignore China’s behavior in the South China Sea. By increasing arms sales to China’s neighbors, the US intends to provoke conflicts between China and those countries and jeopardize stability in the Asia-Pacific.

The US is subduing China while simultaneously selling arms in the region and establishing a security framework aimed at China. Asia-Pacific countries should be vigilant in case the US’ moves intensify the regional situation and seriously endanger regional cooperation – what they and China need most.