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A fresh bout of ‘send a gunboat’ madness

NEW Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is already proving himself an obedient poodle of US foreign policy.

On his recent visit to Australia, he explained why Britain is planning to send a warship through territorial waters claimed by China in the South China Sea.

Williamson told Australian journalists that the US could “only concentrate on so many things at once” and so wanted its allies to do more.

“This is a great opportunity for the UK and Australia to do more,” he yipped, his tail positively wagging.

So the navy will support US attempts to counteract so-called Chinese “expansionism” in the South China Sea by adding to the flood of Nato vessels in the region.

This is fully in line with the US Pentagon’s recently published National Defence Strategy, which — for the first time in two decades — elevates “great power competition” against China and Russia above terrorism as the main focus of US foreign policy.

“The United States must develop a more lethal and technologically advanced force to counter the recent growth in military power and increased aggression demonstrated by China and Russia,” US Defence Secretary James Mattis declared when unveiling the strategy last week.

It is difficult to see how the globe’s mightiest superpower, which could already destroy the Earth many times and spends more than twice as much on arms than China and Russia combined, can get any more “lethal.”

There are no Chinese troops permanently based outside China’s own territory, although they play an increasingly important and welcome role in UN peace-keeping operations.

However, in the looking-glass world occupied by US and Nato military chiefs, China is “aggressive” and “expansionist” because it occupies a clutch of tiny land banks in the South China Sea.

On the other hand, the US is being merely “defensive” when it stations its military forces in more than 700 permanent bases in 70 countries, including Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

At this very moment, war games are being played in the Asia-Pacific region involving six warships and 15,000 troops from the US, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

Operation Cobra Gold is an annual event of the kind replicated by the US and its allies around the world, although there is something special about this year’s exercise.

Myanmar’s military chiefs are attending as observers, fresh from their murderous ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.

One can imagine the hysteria in US ruling circles were Chinese armed forces to be camped in, say, Mexico, Cuba and Haiti, with Chinese-led war games taking place in the Caribbean and a Russian warship about to sail down the Florida coast.

So far, China’s reaction to the proposed navy voyage through the South China Sea has been commendably low-key.

HMS Sutherland should now be told by Williamson to steer away from China and find something useful to do, like rescuing migrants off the coast of Africa or transporting aid to the people of Yemen.

This latest bout of “send a gunboat” madness underlines the urgent need for Britain to develop a “poodle-free” foreign and defence policy that is independent of US imperialism, Nato and an increasingly militarised European Union.

At last year’s general election, Labour promised to return to the late Robin Cook’s vision of an “ethical foreign policy.”

The sooner it does so the better, even though heads may have to roll from the shadow cabinet’s front bench.

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