US Admiral Warns China Could Use Its Bases to Challenge Washington
The chief of US Fleet Forces Command has warned that Beijing's current military infrastructure in the South China Sea may help it contain Washington's clout in the region.
Admiral Philip S. Davidson, chief of US Fleet Forces Command, wrote in a report to the US Congress that "once occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania."
"The PLA [Chinese People's Liberation Army] will be able to use these bases to challenge US presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea claimants. […] In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States," Davidson said.
The warning came after China's Defense Ministry stated last week that Australian media reports that Chinese naval vessels had recently challenged Australian warships in the South China Sea "did not accord with the facts."
U.S. Navy sailors move aircraft from an elevator into the hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea April 8, 2018. Picture taken April 8, 2018
According to the ministry, the Chinese warships used "professional language to communicate with the Australians, and their operations were lawful, compliant [with international norms], professional and safe."
Confirming that its three warships recently traveled to Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City via the South China Sea, the Australian Defense Department in turn refused to comment on "operational details" related to the matter.
In its policy paper on national interests and diplomacy, published in late 2017, Canberra specifically stressed that it was "particularly concerned by the unprecedented pace and scale of China's activities" in the South China Sea.
A strategically and economically key maritime region, the South China Sea is disputed between numerous countries in the region, including China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia and Singapore.
Beijing has been pushing its claim to the area by constructing artificial islands around the disputed Spratly Island chain.
The US has been fueling tension by conducting patrolling and performing drills with its allies in the region. Washington claims that its actions aim to maintain freedom of navigation, while Beijing criticizes the actions as a violation of its territorial sovereignty.
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