The Trump administration should take tougher action to counter Chinese militarization in the South China Sea, a bipartisan trio of senators has urged in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The letter, sent by Democratic Sen. Ed Markey along with his Republican colleagues Sens. Marco Rubio and Cory Gardner, expressed "grave concerns" over Beijing's actions and stated that "we believe there is strong bipartisan congressional support for taking significant actions in response to the Chinese government's continuing militarization of the South China Sea."
A few days after the letter was sent, the U.S. Navy sent two warships past a handful of disputed islands in the South China Sea on Sunday in a show of force, CNN reported.
Much to the displeasure of Beijing, which called the action a serious infringement of Chinese sovereignty, the guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins and the cruiser USS Antietam sailed within 12 miles of four of the Paracel Islands to demonstrate the "freedom of navigation" and enforce the right of free passage in international waters.
The three senators stated in their letter that China's militarization of the South China Sea islands includes deployment of weapons on artificially-fortified islets and reefs and that this weapons activity is increasing China's ability to project power into the Pacific Ocean.
They also pointed out that this buildup violates a promise made by Chinese President Xi Jinping during a 2015 summit with then-President Barack Obama that Beijing would not "pursue militarization" of the islands.
China has reclaimed some 3,200 acres of small islands since 2013 and has built military bases that have included airstrips, hangars, harbors, anti-aircraft batteries, radars, and structures for housing surface-to-air missiles, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
In recent weeks, Chinese forces also landed several nuclear-capable H-6K bombers on an airfield in the area and deployed anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on other man-made islands.
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