German warships could be sent through the Taiwan Strait & in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) to challenge Beijing’s claims over international waterways, which would mark a departure of Germany’s decades-long non-confrontation policy, US media outlet Politico’s European branch said yesterday.
German officials last week confirmed, after discussing the issue with the German Federal Ministry of Defense, that such plans were being considered, said an article by John Vinocur, former executive editor and vice president of the International Herald Tribune.
Should the administration of German Chancellor Angela Merkel go ahead with the plan, Germany would be challenging the French opinion that Germany is running a “non-combat army” while openly backing allies, Vinocur said.
However, the plan would be provocative to those in Germany who favor non-aggression, he said.
Vinocur cited as examples of Germany’s reluctance to engage in conflicts the withdrawal of its navy from the combat zone during the Libyan intervention in 2011, caveats on its troop deployments in Afghanistan and its decision not to directly participate in attacks on the Islamic State group in Syria — unlike its NATO neighbors Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and France.
Reasons to go ahead with the plan would include improving US-German relations — especially after a recently announced six-month suspension to US tariffs on German vehicles — and one-upping France, which claims to have the only functioning military in the EU, Vinocur said.
France in April sent a frigate through the Taiwan Strait, which was shadowed by the Chinese military and resulted in Beijing lodging official protests with Paris regarding its “illegal passage” through the waterway.
Later that month, the US dispatched two destroyers through the Taiwan Strait, which a US official said demonstrated “the US’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
While Vinocur applauded some elements in Germany’s military for attempting to challenge the slight on the country for a “hide-under-the-bed routine,” he said that the chances of the Merkel administration going ahead with the plan “are not overwhelmingly promising.”
“Germany is politically riven to the state of instability,” Vinocur said, citing Merkel’s “paralytic” coalition with the Social Democratic Party being likely to dissolve and the growth of popularity of the Green Party.
Merkel’s chosen successor, Christian Democratic Union leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, is increasingly unpopular with the German public, Vinocur said, citing a poll last week showing that 70 percent of Germans think she is not up to the task.
Economically, Germany is looking at a 0.6 percent fall in GDP, with no signs of improvement next year, he said, citing Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce reports.
Against that backdrop, launching a naval operation in the South China Sea & Taiwan Strait would be a groundbreaking, but unfamiliar act of valor that would first require the German Navy to get that far, he added.