US-China virus conflict might escalate into scorching struggle

As world leaders accuse China of covering up the coronavirus outbreak at its outset before it grew into a global pandemic, a Turkish expert warned that the clash over the virus could escalate into a hot war. 

“The epidemic could have been stopped earlier if China had given the information to stop the virus at its source,” Mesut Hakki Casin, a professor of law at Istanbul’s Yeditepe University, told Anadolu Agency.

According to Casin, China may one day face charges at an international court for the spread of the novel coronavirus and its belated reporting on the first cases in Wuhan.

Earlier this week, in an interview with German daily Bild, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hinted that China is to blame for the damage wreaked by the virus worldwide.

“There will be a time when the people responsible will be held accountable. I am very confident that this will happen,” said Pompeo.

“At the moment, it’s absolutely necessary to focus on the current task in order to systematically restart the American, and then also the global, economy. There will be a time for assigning blame,” he added.

Pompeo was not the only world leader with China in his crosshairs.

U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted on describing COVID-19 as “Chinese virus,” despite critics calling the label racist.

French President Emmanuel Macron also questioned China’s handling of the outbreak, saying it was naive to suggest that it had dealt with the crisis well.

On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We’ll have to ask the hard questions about how it came about and how it couldn’t have been stopped earlier.”

“We can’t have business as usual after this crisis,” he added. Casin said he foresees a reckoning between Washington and Beijing, especially after Pompeo’s remarks.“As for the military aspect of the issue, the U.S. has the largest military power in the world” with upwards of $700 billion in annual defense spending, he said. China has boosted its defense spending to $181 billion, second only to the U.S., Casin said, adding that in the next decade it is likely to pass the U.S., “which shows that China is a great challenger as a revisionist force in the face of the United States.”

On trade conflict between the U.S. and China, Casin said he thinks “this conflict will be reflected in a military dimension, contrary to the Cold War era,” where tensions failed to escalate into a direct military confrontation between the world’s super powers. “China has launched its second aircraft carrier and challenged the U.S. with four cruisers in the Pacific,” he added.

“From a numerical perspective, China, which topped the U.S.’ 287 ships with its own 300, is very challenging for the U.S. in both the Pacific and the Atlantic,” he said. Casin described this period, with an uncertain duration, as “epidemic diplomacy.”

“So the Third World War started between the great powers, and the 21st-century duel will be the last duel between Washington and Beijing,” he predicted.

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