Grow­ing main­land, Rus­sia mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity in Asia-Pa­cific: US


The com­man­der of U.S. forces in the Pa­cific said Wed­nes­day that ma­jor land recla­ma­tion by China at out­posts in the South China Sea could al­low it to ex­ert more in­flu­ence over the con­tested area and deploy mil­i­tary as­sets such as lon­grange radar and ad­vanced mis­sile sys­tems.

Adm. Sa­muel Lock­lear also told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that Rus­sia has es­ca­lated mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity in the Asia-Pa­cific in re­cent months to a near Cold War-level.

Lock­lear’s area of com­mand strad­dles a vast area of land and ocean where the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has tried to el­e­vate Amer­ica’s pres­ence, and where other ma­jor pow­ers jockey for in­flu­ence. He was ad­dress­ing a hear­ing on U.S. mil­i­tary strat­egy and pos­ture in the re­gion.

In the past year, China has con­ducted mas­sive land recla­ma­tion at pre­vi­ously sub­merged reefs in the South China Sea de­spite a U.S. call for a freeze on such con­struc­tion to give time for diplo­macy to work be­tween China and its neigh­bors in Southeast Asia.

Lock­lear said China has ag­gres- sive recla­ma­tion and con­struc­tion projects at eight out­posts in the Para­cel and Spratly is­land chains, in­clud­ing what ap­pears to be an air­field at Fiery Cross Reef, which is also claimed by Viet­nam, the Philip­pines and Tai­wan. It’s one of many dis­puted, tiny land fea­tures in that ocean.

Lock­lear said the ar­ti­fi­cial is­lands would al­low China to pro­vide bas­ing and re­sup­ply for its large and grow­ing fleet of mar­itime se­cu­rity ves­sels. He said China even­tu­ally could deploy mis­siles and radar on them, pro­vid­ing a plat­form for en­forc­ing an air de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone if it tried to es­tab­lish one in the South China Sea.

“It al­lows them to ex­ert ba­si­cally greater in­flu­ence over what’s now a con­tested area,” Lock­lear said.

China claims much of the South China Sea, and Bei­jing has as­serted its right to un­der­take any ac­tiv­ity in ter­ri­to­ries it claims. In late 2013, China uni­lat­er­ally de­clared an air de­fense zone over dis­puted, Ja­panese-held is­lands in the East China Sea. The U.S., Ja­pan and oth­ers have re­fused to rec­og­nize the move.

Lock­lear also noted an in­crease in Rus­sian mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity in the Asia-Pa­cific, with long-range ma­neu­vers to­ward the U.S. in the past few months. He said Rus­sia is im­prov­ing its strate­gic nu­clear de­ter­rent on its east coast in the north­ern Pa­cific, and its sub­ma­rine forces, which op­er­ate in the Arc­tic and in North­east Asia.

He said there was a greater Rus­sian mil­i­tary pres­ence in Southeast Asia this year, too.

U.S. ally Ja­pan said Wed­nes­day that the num­ber of scram­bles by its war­planes has surged to lev­els nearly match­ing the Cold War era amid grow­ing ac­tiv­ity by China and Rus­sia.

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