Pentagon Building Up Forces, Alliances in South China Sea
In a major policy shift, the Pentagon declared Wednesday the United States will directly defend U.S. national security interests in the South China Sea against China’s expansive and illegal maritime claims.
David Shear, assistant defense secretary for Asia and Pacific affairs, told a Senate hearing that China’s claims over almost all of the Southeast Asian sea are destabilizing and risk a regional conflict with states such as Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia.
“DoD is taking action to protect U.S. national interests in the South China Sea: peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, unimpeded lawful commerce, respect for international law, and the maintenance of peace and stability,” Shear told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A defense official, meanwhile, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter has requested options for sending additional U.S. aircraft and ships to the South China Sea and deploying them within 12 miles of disputed Spratlys islands reefs where China has been building potential military facilities.