Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 1 News List

US Senators speak out against China’s territorial moves

Reuters, WASHINGTON

Leading US senators expressed alarm on Thursday at the scale and speed of China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea and said a formal US strategy was needed to slow or stop the work.

In a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Republican Senators John McCain and Bob Corker and Democrats Jack Reed and Bob Menendez said that without a comprehensive strategy, “long-standing interests of the United States, as well as our allies and partners, stand at considerable risk.”

They said China’s land reclamation and construction in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) gives it the potential to expand its military reach and is “a direct challenge, not only to the interests of the United States and the region, but to the entire international community.”

The letter said Gaven Reef (Nansyun, 南薰礁) had grown about 114,000m2 in size in the past year and previously submerged Johnson Reef (Chigua Reef, 赤瓜礁) was now a 100,000m2 “island.” Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu Reef, 永暑礁) has increased in size more than 11-fold since August last year.

“While other states have built on existing land masses, China is changing the size, structure and physical attributes of land features themselves,” the letter said. “This is a qualitative change that appears designed to alter the status quo in the South China Sea.”

It said any attempt by China to militarize the artificial islands could have “serious consequences” and could embolden Beijing to declare a new air defense zone in the South China Sea.

The senators, who head the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the strategy should lay out “specific actions the United States can take to slow down or stop China’s reclamation activities.”

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊), when asked about the letter, said China’s activities in the South China Sea were “fair, reasonable and legal.”

“We have a right to do this,” Hong added, without elaborating.

China claims about 90 percent of the potentially energy rich South China Sea. Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines also have overlapping claims.

Chinese reclamation work is well advanced on six Spratly reefs and workers are building ports and fuel storage depots and possibly two airstrips. Experts say this will not overturn US regional military superiority, but could allow Beijing to project power deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

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