China’s neigh­bors must not be ‘el­bowed aside’: Obama

The China Post - - SPORTS -

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama warned Thurs­day that China shouldn’t “el­bow aside” coun­tries it is in con­flict with in the South China Sea, where the United States has sounded an alarm over Chi­nese con­struc­tion on dis­puted is­lands.

Speak­ing from a town hall meet­ing while on a visit to Ja­maica, Obama warned against ag­gres­sive acts by China while at the same time wel­com­ing its strong econ­omy and global reach.

“Where we get con­cerned with China is where it is not nec­es­sar­ily abid­ing by in­ter­na­tional norms and rules and is us­ing its sheer size and mus­cle to force coun­tries into sub­or­di­nate po­si­tions, and that is the con­cern we have around mar­itime is­sues,” Obama said re­spond­ing to a ques­tion about the South China Sea.

“Just be­cause the Philip­pines or Viet­nam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be el­bowed aside.”

His com­ments come as the U.S. warned that Chi­nese ef­forts to en­large and build up dis­puted is­lands in the South China Sea are a threat to re­gional sta­bil­ity.

A newly re­leased set of satel­lite images re­vealed that China is ar­ti­fi­cially ex­pand­ing a reef in dis­puted wa­ters, pre­sum­ably to strengthen its ter­ri­to­rial claims.

“In our view, China’s land recla­ma­tion and the con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity are fu­el­ing greater anx­i­ety within the re­gion,” State Depart­ment spokesman Jeff Rathke told re­porters.

Rathke said Wash­ing­ton is con­cerned that China “might mil­i­ta­rize out­posts on dis­puted land fea­tures of the South China Sea.

“So we are watch­ing th­ese de­vel­op­ments closely and we con­tinue to raise our con­cerns with China as well as with oth­ers in the re­gion to urge all par­ties to avoid desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Obama said diplo­matic dia­logue is the best way to ad­dress the South China Sea dis­pute.

The U.S. leader was also care­ful to em­pha­size that de­spite dis­putes with Bei­jing, China’s eco­nomic power plays a pos­i­tive role in the world, and said the U.S. “wel­comes” global aid in­vest­ments.

“We should be more fear­ful of a poor col­laps­ing China than a China that is par­tic­i­pat­ing in the world mar­ket­place,” he said.

Satel­lite images on the web­site of the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies show a flotilla of Chi­nese ves­sels dredg­ing sand onto a fea­ture known as Mis­chief Reef.

Images of other out­crops in the Spratly Is­lands show air­craft run­ways ap­pear­ing from jun­gle, smooth-sided solid masses where there once was coral and man­made har­bors re­plac­ing nat­u­ral reefs.

An­a­lysts say the pic­tures show how China is at­tempt­ing to cre­ate “facts in the wa­ter” to bol­ster its ter­ri­to­rial claim.

Bei­jing as­serts sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, in­clud­ing ar­eas near the coasts of other states, us­ing a line that first ap­peared on Chi­nese maps in the 1940s.

The Philip­pines, Viet­nam, Ma- laysia, Brunei and Tai­wan all have over­lap­ping claims.

The United States has no claim of its own, but broadly sup­ports its Asian al­lies against Chi­nese pres­sure and has as­serted that free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion is in its na­tional in­ter­est.

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