Speaking at a security summit in Singapore, [American Secretary of Defense] Carter said Beijing risks building a "Great Wall of self-isolation" with its military expansion in the contested waters, but he also proposed stronger bilateral security cooperation to reduce the risks of a mishap.
"I hope that this development doesn't occur because it will result in actions being taken both by the United States, and actions being taken by others in the region that will have the effect of not only increasing tensions but isolating China," Carter said when asked about Scarborough Shoal in a forum also attended by senior Chinese military officials.
Did Carter draw a red line in the South China Sea against Chinese expansion? Whoa.
It seems that Carter anticipates the "actions" that America and our friends might carry out aren't actions in the sense that they would reverse Chinese territorial gains but "actions" that would "isolate" China as punishment for those gains.
Which China, as the largest country in the world and potentially the dominant power in east Asia, may not consider a credible threat in the long run. Look at our levels of trade with China. If we are unable to truly "isolate" China, how will much smaller neighbors inflict that pain on China?
And remember, the Chinese were fine with isolating themselves from the outside world north of the original actual Great Wall. Push the defensive wall out far enough and you've "isolated" a whole lot of useful territory, no?
Isn't this a feature rather than a bug?
So did we warn China not to do anything aggressive to build their defensive wall while essentially reassuring China we won't actually do anything of real consequence?
Now that I reflect, yes, my pucker factor is rising considerably.