An icebreaker can also be of great importance at 32 degrees: Ironically, in the tropical city of Singapore, a few kilometers from the equator, the German Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach described the visit of the frigate "Bavaria" in the Indo-Pacific as an "icebreaker": next year want the German military aircraft, which will train together with Singaporean machines in Australia, then send a larger naval unit the following year, which should also cross the controversial Taiwan Straits - just as other nations have been doing for years.

Christopher Hein

Business correspondent for South Asia/Pacific based in Singapore.

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Three days before Christmas, while the marines stood at attention on the aft deck of the "Bayern" and worked up a sweat, the inspector of the navy explained that the Germans did not want to come "with a hammer" right away.

However, the region has a rapidly growing economic importance, which Germany and Europe also want to secure.

Norbert Riedel, the German ambassador to Singapore, had previously expressed "particular concern over the allegation of unlawful and far-reaching maritime claims in the South China Sea," though without naming China.

"Clearly incompatible with international law"

While Asia is also being swept by the omicron wave, governments are securing their claims in the Indo-Pacific region. After more than seven years of negotiations, Japan and Australia have just concluded military cooperation, Beijing is helping struggling Sri Lanka and at the same time fortifying its border in the Himalayas on territory over which it has been at odds with the Kingdom of Bhutan for decades. India, which is coming under increasing pressure from China's grip, is betting on closer ties with Washington.

Not only since the recent disputes over test drilling for oil and gas off the coasts of Indonesia and Vietnam has there been growing concern that Beijing is continuing to enforce its claims in the South China Sea against international law.

“A significant portion of world trade passes through important 'blue arteries' such as the Malacca Straits.

Southeast Asia is also becoming one of the main stages for new geopolitical and geoeconomic rivalries,” warns Ambassador Riedel.

Concern is growing that Beijing could control and disrupt important sea connections.

On Wednesday last week, the US State Department dared the next verbal salvo: China's advance in the South China Sea was "clearly incompatible with international law".

Beijing's claims "seriously undermine the rule of law at sea and a variety of generally accepted provisions of international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," the 47-page report concludes.

Beijing replied immediately: The report from Washington "falsifies international law, misleads the public, sows discord and weighs on the regional situation," according to the State Department.

Then the Chinese diplomats point out with relish that the Americans, unlike China, have not ratified the International Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Despite growing criticism, China is pushing ahead with lending and building power plants, railways and ports in weaker partner countries.

The rapid transit through underdeveloped Laos has just opened up.

“The New Silk Road project, with its worldwide direct investments in infrastructure or energy networks, is not just niceties.

This is brutal power politics.

As Europeans, we must not delude ourselves,” warned Annalena Baerbock, now German Foreign Minister, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper at the end of April.