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Adm. Harry Harris, the 4-star commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said in front of at Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday that he South China Sea remains international waters and that our allies should join us in acting as such in the face of Chinese expansion.
Last week, anti-aircraft missiles were installed by China on Woody Island, a highly disputed island claimed by multiple countries. This week, the Chinese followed up those bold actions by installing radars on the Spratlys.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, these radars:
“Could significantly change the operational landscape in the South China Sea…Placement of a high frequency radar on Cuarteron Reef would significantly bolster China’s ability to monitor surface and air traffic coming north from the Malacca Straits and other strategically important channels.”
It is because of this expansion that the U.S. has flown an intelligence plane over the island and sailed past it in a bomber within the past year. This is precisely what Adm. Harris has urged our Allies in the region to join us in challenging the Chinese on taking over such a heavily disputed and important waterway.
Harris told the Committee:
“It would be helpful and I’ve encouraged other countries to conduct operations in the South China Sea because, at the end of the day, the South China Sea is international waters in my view.”
He went on to say that other nations have been open to performing operations of their own while other remain bashful due to international pressures. At the end of the day, Harris believes the issue is crystal clear:
“This is international water and international airspace, and if we don’t exercise our rights or if those rights aren’t routinely exercised by someone, then we stand a chance of abdicating those rights to someone else,” Harris said. The regular exercise of freedom of navigation, in my opinion, is critical. It’s important. And it’s something that we must continue to do.”
Adding to the list of aggressive actions made by the Chinese, they have also installed a 10,000-foot airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef on which they landed commercial airliners on this year.
Will this problem in the south China Sea come to a conclusion soon or will war come of it? Sound off in the comments below!