South China Sea WARNING: China INCREASING military presence
Admiral Philip Davidson, head of US Indo-Pacific Command, said American forces have observed more warships, fighter jets and bombers to the disputed waters last year. And Beijing’s increased presence poses a threat to future trade in the region, Admiral Davidson said. But despite China’s strategy, he said the US is committed to remaining an “enduring Pacific power”, Bloomberg reports.
Asked about China’s military activities in the region, Admiral Davidson said: “It’s building, it’s not reducing in any sense of the word.
“There has been more activity with ships, fighters and bombers over the last year than in previous years, absolutely.”
China has taken control of huge swathes of the South China Sea, dismissing rival claims from Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
In a bid to protect its claims, considered excessive by the West, the Asian superpower has transformed a series of atolls and reefs into military installations complete with airstrips, naval bases and barracks for troops.
The South China Sea is home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, with an estimated £4 trillion worth of trade passing through the region annually.
But Western nations, particular the US, fear China’s claim could see Beijing seek to control trade vessels passing through its waters.
Admiral Davidson said: “It’s a hazard to trade flows, the commercial activity, the financial information that flows on cables under the South China Sea, writ large.”
The warning comes after a top Republican senator this week warned Chinese leader Xi Jinping is risking a military clash through “aggressive actions” in the regions international shipping lanes.
Tom Cotton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, told the Washington Examiner: “The United States wants ‘a shooting war’ with no nation.
“In that region in particular, the only nation that risks that kind of military action is China, through aggressive actions in the South China Sea or towards Taiwan, or some of its other neighbours.”
Last month, a leading UK think tank warned Britain must be prepared to face down an increasingly aggressive China to protect its interests in the heavily militarised South China Sea.
Research by the Henry Jackson Society said nearly £100billion of trade to and from the UK passes through the region annually.
And the best way to help maintain freedom of navigation for vessels in the area is to deploy Royal Navy warships, the study concluded – despite the risk of “inadvertent escalation” with Chinese vessels.