US Asia Pa­cific com­man­der says China ‘mil­i­ta­riz­ing’ WPS

Business Mirror - - NEWS - By Rene Acosta

CHINA is trans­form­ing the in­ter­na­tional wa­ters of South China Sea, or West Philip­pine Sea to the Philip­pines, into a mil­i­tary zone with its ex­ten­sive mil­i­tary ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing the in­stal­la­tion of radars and de­ploy­ment of sur­face to air mis­siles in the reefs that it has re­claimed, US Pa­cific Com­mand com­man­der Adm. Harry Har­ris Jr. said.

In a news con­fer­ence at the Pen­tagon on Thurs­day (Fri­day in Manila), whose tran­script was made avail­able by the US Depart­ment of De­fense, Har­ris said that Bei­jing was mov­ing to mil­i­ta­rize what was sup­posed to be in­ter­na­tional wa­ters, con­strict­ing in­ter­na­tional nav­i­ga­tion and over­flights.

“I am of the opin­ion that they are mil­i­ta­riz­ing the South China Sea [SCS]. And when they add their ad­vanced fight­ers to Woody Is­land… and when they put their ad­vanced mis­sile sys­tems on the Paracels, and when they build three 10,000-foot run­ways in the Spratlys, on the ba­sis that they’ve re­claimed, when they do all of that, they’re chang­ing the op­er­a­tional land­scape in the SCS,” he said.

“With re­gard to what China is do­ing dif­fer­ently, over the past few years, what they’ve done is re­claimed al­most 3,000 acres of bases, mil­i­tary bases, in my opin­ion, in the South China Sea,” Har­ris added.

The state­ment of Amer­ica’s top mil­i­tary com­man­der in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion si­mul­ta­ne­ously came with the hold­ing of a mar­itime con­fer­ence with fo­cus on China at the Dela Salle Univer­sity, which was at­tended by top political and mil­i­tary thinkers in the re­gion.

Aside from look­ing into Bei­jing’s ex­pan­sive claims, both in the East and South China Sea, the meet­ing also delved into the ac­tiv­i­ties of other con­tend­ing coun­tries and how th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties have gen­er­ated ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes and ten­sions in the re­gion.

Har­ris said that the United States and its al­lies are chal­leng­ing China’s de­clared sovereignty in the WPS, partly by putting up more pa­trols that would have big­ger num­ber of US ships sailed closer into the islets and reefs that it has oc­cu­pied, in­clud­ing in the WPS.

“With re­gard to com­plex­ity, I think there are many things we could do in terms of in­creas­ing the com­plex­ity of th­ese op­er­a­tions, such as pick­ing other for­ma­tions to go through, to go near, and the like,” Har­ris added.

The ships’ for­ma­tions could be in the form or com­bi­na­tion of de­stroy­ers, cruises, lit­toral-com­bat ships and even a car­rier strike group, which the ad­mi­ral said has al­ways been in the SCS.

“So I think th­ese, or any mix of th­ese is a good com­bi­na­tion of ships to have in the area. And we also bring car­ri­ers through the re­gion, car­rier strike groups and all that,” he said. Har­ris also raised the pos­si­bil­ity that China will de­clare an air de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone (Adiz), as it has done in the East China Sea, of which he is very much con­cerned, al­though he said it will never be fol­lowed by the US.

“With re­gard to Adiz, or air de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone, I am con­cerned about the pos­si­bil­ity that China might de­clare an Adiz,” he said.

“I’m con­cerned about it from the sense that I would find that to be desta­bi­liz­ing and provoca­tive. We will, we would ig­nore it, just as we’ve ig­nored the Adiz that they put in place in the East China Sea,” he added.

As early as last year, De­fense Sec­re­tary Voltaire T. Gazmin said that China was al­ready prac­tic­ing the im­po­si­tion of an air zone in the West Philip­pine Sea through its con­tin­ued chal­lenge of not only Philip­pine pa­trols but even by com­mer­cial or civil­ian air­crafts.

In fact, he said an Adiz could have al­ready been in place, al­though it was not for­mally or of­fi­cially de­clared.

On Wed­nes­day, Sen. John McCain, chair­man of the US Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, prod­ded the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to do more in check­ing China which is act­ing “more like a bully.”

“The United States must now con­sider fresh op­tions to raise the costs on Bei­jing’s be­hav­ior. Shap­ing rather than re­act­ing to Bei­jing’s ac­tions will mean adopt­ing poli­cies with a level of risk that we have been un­will­ing to con­sider up to this point,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.