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Sep 29, 2020 / 10:12

US accuses China of breaking promise not to militarize South China Sea

Chinese President Xi Jinping said five years ago that China’s outposts would not “target or impact any country.”

The US Department of State has blamed China for failing to keep its promise not to pursue militarization in the South China Sea that Chinese President Xi Jinping made five years ago.

 Construction at Mabini (Johnson) Reef by China, in the disputed Spratly Islands, in the south China Sea. Photo: EPA/ Armed Forces of the Philippines

Xi made the promise on September 25, 2015 when he was in the White House Rose Garden, stating that “China does not intend to pursue militarization” of the Spratly Islands, and China’s outposts would not “target or impact any country,” Morgan Ortagus, the US State Department’s spokesperson, said in a statement.

“China has instead pursued a reckless and provocative militarization of those disputed outposts, they have deployed anti-ship cruise missiles, expanded military radar and signal intelligence capabilities, constructed dozens of fighter jet hangars, and have built runways capable of accommodating combat aircraft,” Morgan Ortagus added.

The spokesperson went on to say that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses these militarized outposts as platforms of coercion to assert control over waters to which Beijing has no lawful maritime claim.

“They serve as staging grounds for the hundreds of maritime militia vessels and China Coast Guard ships that regularly harass civilian craft and impede legitimate law enforcement activities, offshore fishing, and hydrocarbon development by neighboring states,” she noted

“The CCP does not honor its words or commitments,” the spokesperson stressed.

She emphasized that in recent months, there have been an unprecedented number of states expressing their formal opposition at the United Nations to China’s unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Washington urges the international community to continue to raise its opposition to this unacceptable and dangerous behavior, warning that it will hold China to account.

It said the US will continue to stand with Southeast Asian allies and partners in resisting China’s coercive efforts to establish dominion over the South China Sea.

Aleksey Maslov at National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, commented that for China, it is crucial to control the disputed islands in order to ensure the safety of shipping routes from the Persian Gulf that are used to deliver oil to China.

According to Dr. Scott N. Romaniuk, postdoctoral research fellow at University of Alberta, and Tobias Burgers, doctoral candidate at the Otto-Suhr-Institute (Free University of Berlin), China’s astonishing expansion into the South China Sea’s 1.35 million square miles and its subsequent militarization of the region over the past several years has cultivated a complex security environment.

With China’s initial island-building campaign nearly 10 years old, the next phase of China’s South China Sea expansion is the consolidation and military fortification of its territorial assets – garrisoning the many tiny islets once deemed uninhabitable. The establishment of military bases has culminated in the creation of China’s “strategic triangle.”