Tags: Emerging Threats | john kerry | us | china | south china sea | expansion

Kerry Off to Beijing Amid Tension Over South China Sea

Kerry Off to Beijing Amid Tension Over South China Sea
(Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 14 May 2015 01:35 PM

A growing confrontation over China's assertion of dominance in the South China Sea likely will make for tension between Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese officials when Kerry visits that country this weekend.

The Pentagon is considering military moves over China's reclamation of over 2,000 acres of land in the Spratly Islands, fearing that the land will be used for military installations. It is also responding to concerns from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam that China's actions challenge their claimed sovereignty over parts of the area, The Free Beacon reports.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has instructed his staff to plan options for sending U.S. ships and aircraft to within 12 miles of the islands in a demonstration of U.S. concern over China's territorial activities.

David Shear, assistant defense secretary for Asia and Pacific affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the U.S. is "taking action to protect U.S. national interests in the South China Sea: peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation and over-flight and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, unimpeded lawful commerce, respect for international law and the maintenance of peace and stability," the Free Beacon reported.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry voiced "serious concern" over the U.S. actions.

"Freedom of navigation does not give one country's military aircraft and ships free access to another country's territorial waters and airspace," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told China's state-sponsored news agency, Xinhua.

"We see a pattern of behavior that raises concerns that China is trying to assert de facto control over disputed territories and strengthen its military presence in the South China Sea," Shear said, the Free Beacon reported.

Jane's Asia Pacific Editor James Hardy told CNN that China is carrying out "a methodical, well-planned campaign to create a chain of air and sea capable fortresses across the center of the Spratly Islands chain."

Shear told the Senate that China may be planning to use the reclaimed island territory to install radar and military airstrips to "expand its law enforcement and naval presence further south into the South China Sea," the Free Beacon said.

"Upgrading U.S. military presence in the area not only reinforces our regional diplomacy, it also deters provocative conduct and reduces the risk of miscalculation in the area," Shear said.

However, Chunying said, "Do you think we would support that move? We are severely concerned about relevant remarks made by the American side. We believe the American side needs to make clarification on that," Fox News reported. 

Kerry will visit China to prepare for the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington next month, and to make arrangements for the Washington visit of China's President Xi Jinping in September, at a time when the Obama administration is trying to finalize the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal against strong opposition in Congress, Reuters reported. 

A State Department official told Reuters that Kerry will "leave his Chinese interlocutors in absolutely no doubt that the United States remains committed to maintaining freedom of navigation and to exercise our legitimate rights as pertaining to over-flight and movement on the high seas," Reuters said.

"Ultimately no matter how much sand China piles on top of a submerged reef or shoal, it is not enhancing its territorial claim. You can’t build sovereignty," the official told Reuters.

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A growing confrontation over China's assertion of dominance in the South China Sea likely will make for tension between Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese officials when Kerry visits that country this coming weekend.
john kerry, us, china, south china sea, expansion
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2015-35-14
Thursday, 14 May 2015 01:35 PM
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