Beijing and Moscow are "going to take advantage" of the 15 months President Barack Obama has left in office, former Ambassador John Bolton said Tuesday, commenting on China's warning after the U.S. sailed a warship
through waters claimed by China in the disputed South China Sea.
"The perception in Beijing and Moscow is that we have a weak president," Bolton, now a Fox News correspondent, told the network's "America's Newsroom" program.
"The Chinese essentially claim the entire South China Sea."
On Tuesday, USS Lassen came within 12-nautical miles of Subi Reef, an island built by China as a platform to assert its claim to almost 80 percent of one of the world's busiest waterways to show that the United States does not recognize China's claim to the region.
"These rocks and reefs are claimed by other countries," said Bolton, including the Philippines and Taiwan, and sailing within a 12-mile limit of them is an action by the United States that is "long overdue."
"It took the White House a long time to approve it, but what I think we are missing is a strategy to deal with this incredible sea grab China is doing," he continued. "Every barrel of oil for the world goes through that area."
But just sending one ship through is not taking action in a serious way, said Bolton.
"If we are going to do this in a serious way, we have to have more ships in the water," he said. "Nobody should misunderstand how potentially dangerous this is."
Bolton said he is also worried the White House may have not thought the action through completely, because "if we get in a situation where the Chinese crowd our ships and impede their passage and there is a collision at sea, what do we do then?"
Still, he does not want the United States to back down, even though China on Tuesday said the action "threatened China's sovereignty and national interest."
"If the United States, having initiated this free of navigation exercise, backs down, it will be worse than not having initiated it at all," said Bolton. "I think this is what happens when you project weakness; the risk of confrontation increases as a result of our weakness."
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