- The head of US Indo-Pacific Command said Thursday that Chinese military activity is on the rise in the disputed South China Sea.
- “It’s building. It’s not reducing in any sense of the word,” Adm. Philip Davidson said, explaining that Chinese ships, fighters, and bombers are more active in the reigon.
- He stressed that the US will remain an “enduring Pacific power” regardless of Chinese actions.
Chinese military activity is on the rise in the South China Sea, but the US isn’t retreating from the region, the top US commander in the Pacific said Thursday.
“It’s building. It’s not reducing in any sense of the word,” Adm. Philip Davidson, head of US Indo-Pacific Command, said in Singapore, commenting on Chinese military activities in the contested waterway, Bloomberg News reported.
“There has been more activity with ships, fighters and bombers over the last year than in previous years, absolutely,” he added, calling it a “hazard.” He further remarked that while China’s military spending is on a reduced growth trajectory, there is no sign of a slowdown in Chinese defence capabilities.
China has reportedly armed its island outposts in the South China Sea with anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, jamming technology, and other weapon systems. China also regularly conducts military drills in the region.
The admiral, who took command of 380,000 civilian and military personnel last April, reportedly stressed that despite these actions, the US will remain an “enduring Pacific power.”
When it comes to the South China Sea, the US and China are often at odds, and there have been confrontations.
The US Navy routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, challenging Chinese claims by sailing warships past Chinese-occupied territories. The US Navy has conducted already two operations this year.
Last September, a Chinese destroyer challenged a US warship during an operation near the disputed Spratly Islands, forcing the ship off course in a dangerous confrontation that risked a collision.
The US Air Force also regularly conducts bomber overflights, with the most recent occurring Monday.
Beijing often calls US actions in the region provocations, using US military activities as justification for its militarization of the South China Sea. “If somebody is flexing their muscles on your doorstep, can’t you at least get a slingshot?” China’s foreign ministry has asked.
A close US ally recently expressed concern that rising tensions between the US and China in the South China Sea could ignite a “shooting war,” one that could drag American partners into a conflict they do not want.
The Philippines has requested a review of the 1951 Mutual Defence Treaty, a document Davidson says he takes “quite seriously,” the Associated Press reported. American officials are discussing the matter with their counterparts in the Philippines.
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