Thu, Mar 03, 2016 - Page 1 News List

US, China trade words again over South China Sea

WARNING:Ashton Carter said Beijing’s actions have fueled trilateral pacts that a few years ago would have been ‘unthinkable,’ and that the US has ‘plans’

Reuters, BEIJING and SAN FRANCISCO

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday urged the US not to sensationalize the South China Sea dispute after US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said Beijing’s actions there would have consequences.

Carter on Tuesday warned China against “aggressive” actions in the South China Sea region, including the placement of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island.

“China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea,” Carter said in a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. “Specific actions will have specific consequences.”

Asked what the consequences could be, Carter told reporters the US military was already increasing deployments to the Asia-Pacific region and would spend US$425 million through 2020 to pay for more exercises and training with countries in the region that were unnerved by China’s actions.

He said Beijing’s behavior had fueled trilateral agreements that would have been “unthinkable” even a few years ago.

The US has carried out several “freedom of navigation exercises” in the South China Sea in recent months, sailing near disputed islands to underscore its rights to navigate the seas.

US Navy officials say they plan to conduct more and increasingly complex exercises in the future.

Carter said the Pentagon also planned to spend more than US$8 billion in fiscal 2017 alone to expand its fleet of powerful submarines and undersea drones.

“There is no question that there are consequences for these actions,” Carter said.

“We have plans in all three of these categories. You’ll see them unfolding,” he said.

Carter underscored the US military’s determination to safeguard maritime security around the world, and particularly in the South China Sea region, which sees about 30 percent of the world’s trade transit its waters each year.

The US defense secretary also took aim in his speech at both Russia and China for their actions to limit Internet access, as well as state-sponsored cyberthreats, cyberespionage and cybercrime.

He said the Pentagon would spend US$35 billion over the next five years to beef up cybersecurity and develop offensive cyberoptions to defeat the Islamic State militant group and other enemies.

In his prepared remarks, Carter drew a sharp contrast between such behavior by Russia and China and what he described as much healthier US actions to preserve Internet freedom.

“We don’t desire conflict with either country, but we also cannot blind ourselves to their apparent goals and actions,” he said.

Carter also cited US concerns about Chinese and Russian efforts to develop anti-satellite weapons that could destroy critical US national security satellites, citing China’s 2007 anti-satellite test that left more than 3,000 pieces of debris.

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