China Raising Tension in Disputed Sea: US

The Chinese Navy destroyer Qingdao during a routine port visit. (Photo: US Navy)

WASHINGTON DC—The United States on Friday criticized China’s new military garrison in the contested South China Sea as risking an escalation in tensions.

The State Department statement underscored US concerns about situation in the resource-rich sea, a potential flashpoint. It voiced strong support for diplomatic efforts by Southeast Asian nations to negotiate with China, the region’s rising military power which claims virtually all of the sea for itself and would prefer Washington to stay out of the matter.

The Senate on Thursday also urged restraint among the claimant states—China and five of its neighbors—and said the US was committed to assisting Southeast Asian nations remaining “strong and independent.”

Washington’s response comes 10 days after China formally established Sansha City on a remote island, 350 kilometers (220 miles) from its southernmost province. Sansha is intended to administer hundreds of thousands of square miles of water where China wants to strengthen its control over disputed, and potentially oil-rich islands. The Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, has described China’s move as unacceptable. Vietnam called it a violation of international law.

The State Department said the new city and military garrison, “run counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region.”

Beijing has announced plans to set up such a garrison for Sansha, and has named officers to lead it, but has provided no other details.

The US statement also follows an acrimonious annual meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) last month, where for the first time in its 45-year history, the bloc failed to issue a joint communiqué. The host country, Cambodia, viewed as pro-Beijing, rejected a proposal by the Philippines and Vietnam to mention their separate territorial disputes with China.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic Studies think tank in Washington, said the US seeks to shore up Asean unity and weaken China’s ability to intimidate and coerce its neighbors.

She noted that the statement, which follows high-level deliberations within the Obama administration on the issue, makes no mention of other claimant nations’ actions as provocative. That would annoy China, “which increasingly views the US as taking sides and emboldening Vietnam and the Philippines to confront China on South China Sea matters,” Glaser said.

The statement noted an uptick in “confrontational rhetoric, disagreements over resource exploitation, coercive economic actions,” and criticized the use of barriers to block access to the Scarborough Reef, scene of a standoff between Chinese and the Philippine vessels since April. It urged Asean and China to make progress on a code of conduct for addressing disagreements in the South China Sea.

The standoff at the reef, which the Philippines views as lying within its exclusive economic zone, began after Chinese fishing boats were stopped by the Philippine vessels. Manila deployed a navy ship, supplied by the US the previous year, leading China to send more vessels of its own and quarantine Philippine fruit exports to China. Manila says Beijing has not fully complied with a June agreement—supported by the US—for a mutual withdrawal and has used barriers to block Philippine access to the reef.

China is also critical of Vietnam, which passed a law in June stating its jurisdiction over the Paracel and Spratly Island chains and declaring that all foreign naval ships entering these areas must notify Vietnamese authorities.

The United States, which has tens of thousands of forces based in the Asia-Pacific, views itself as a stabilizing influence in the region, and its diplomacy on the South China Sea, where it says it holds on position on the competing sovereignty claims, has helped boost its standing in Southeast Asia. But criticism of China risks straining ties with Beijing that the US also sees as crucial for regional stability.

Republican contender Mitt Romney has accused President Barack Obama of being soft on China, and has promised to get tougher, particularly over Beijing’s trading practices.

4 Responses to China Raising Tension in Disputed Sea: US

  1. Pretty soon the Chinese Navy will also be in the Bay of Bengal. I read somewhere that the construction of the Chinese deep=sea=port at Kyaukphru (or Kyaukphyu in Burmese) in Rakhaing State is proceeding at an “alarming” pace. This will be the terminal for their gas/oil pipeline to Yunnan and also serve as a refueling base for their navy. It is ironic that while the Burmese allow the greedy Chinese to take out all the natural resources from the Arakan coast (Shwe Gas) and elsewhere in Burma and establish naval facilities, the same Burmese are so “defensive” about Burmese sovereignty when it comes to recognising the Rohingya as citizens. Besides, all that wealth from the Arakan coast will be of no benefit to the people who live there, Rakhaings and Rohingyas. If I am cynical, I cab even start imagining that these recent “riots” were instigated by groups who want to protect “Chinese interests” in that region. Who knows?

  2. Why doesn’t ASEAN boycott all purchases from China?

  3. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Of course the communists in Beijing are SPOILING for a FIGHT no doubt.
    Claiming the WHOLE of SOUTH CHINA SEA as their TERRITORY has PROVED the FACT already.
    In this view and scenario The Phillipines and Vietnam mainly among other five claiments should FORM a UNITED FRONT and CONFRONT/STAND UP against the Chinese Reds for their RIGHTS, SOVEREIGNTY and TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY as well of course.
    And the US should also ASCERTAIN the Chinese Reds DO NOT BULLY/THREATEN the CLAIMANTS as they (5 claimants) have ALL their RIGHTS and PRIVILEGES to ACCESS and SHARE the natural resources on SPRATLEY and PARACEL ISLANDS accordingly and equally as well.
    In that direction the FREE WORLD led by the US should DRAW the LINE and SERVE NOTICE to THAT FACT and in ALL CERTAIN TERMS, specifically, MILITARILY in view of the Chinese Reds FLEXING their MUSCLE in the form of WARSHIPS and TROOPS stationed on and around the disputed oil rich islands and shoals in the South China Sea.
    Until and unless the US STOP the CHINESE JUGGERNAUT in its TRACKS and RIGHT NOW, not only the 5 claimants but also the ASEAN as a whole would be UNDER the MERCY of the Chinese communists until eternity.
    Remember the rag-tag regional grouping FAILED to ISSUE a STATEMENT even because of China’s PROXY CAMBODIA!
    And the United Nations Security Council has failed to STOP the SYRIAN DICTATOR Assad KILLING the PEOPLE of SYRIA and the UN Special Envoy for Syria has QUIT HIS JOB because CHINA and RUSSIA used their VETO WEAPONS.
    The Chinese communists have their HIDDEN AGENDA for So
    utheast Asia specifically to CONTROL the SEA LANES and WEALTH in the so-called SOUTH CHINA SEA no doubt, CRUCIAL for CHINA’S HEGEMONY of the Southern Hemisphere and in turn the WORLD at large on the long run obviously.
    The Chinese Reds are on LAND and SEA GRABBING SPREE at this time and juncture as well.
    The Chinese communists have practically SWALLOWED BURMA already: the country’s NATURAL RESOURCES, SOVEREIGHTY and TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY as well are in JEOPARDY at this time and juncture for certain.
    Hence, it calls for the US’S DISCRETION and OBLIGATION in this matter with a view to SAFEGUARD FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY and HUMAN RIGHTS to REIGN SUPREME on this EARTH or ALL HUMANITY/HUMAN BEINGS and even the MONKEYS on this EARTH would be COMPELLED/MADE to DANCE the CHINESE DRAGON DANCE in case Hu Jintao/Xi Jinping and the lot in Beijing MAKE their HOME in the WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON DC, USA.

  4. China Raising Tension in Disputed Sea…and that is news. China has been pickling in the South China Sea since the last forty years but with no buyers; so she is using force to sell her wares. “No can do.”
    Unless China wants the Destroyer Quingdao torpedoed.

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