US senators want 'comprehensive response' vs China sea coercion
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - March 23, 2015 - 3:04pm

MANILA, Philippines — United States lawmakers demanded that Washington and its allies develop and implement a "comprehensive strategy" to address China's "coercive" island-building.

In a recent joint letter addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry newly installed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, senators Jack Reed, John McCain, Robert Menendez and Bob Corker said China's massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea can jeopardize the future of the US and its allies, which includes the Philippines.

"China's deliberate effort to employ non-military methods of coercion to alter the status quo, both in the South China Sea and East China Sea, demands a comprehensive response from the United States and our partners," the senators said in the letter dated Mar. 19, 2015.

Reed is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee chaired by McCain. Corker, meanwhile, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which Menendez is a member.

China had expanded to maritime features 1,000 miles from its baseline, in waters within claims of exclusive economic zones and jurisdiction of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The senators warned against China's abilities to militarize the artificial islands and boost its legal claims over the contested waters.

The new land features, moreover, could improve the Asian powerhouse's fishing activities and host warships and fighter jets.

"It could embolden China to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in all or part of the South China Sea," the senators wrote.

RELATED: China's latest expansion to deny Philippines' access to Ayungin

Some $5 trillion in global ship-borne exchanges pass through the free South China Sea each year, and any control over the crucial water lanes is essentially an ascendancy over international trade.

"China could complete the extend of its planned reclamation in the coming year," they said.

About 114,000 square miles of new land now stands on Gavin Reef, while the previously submerged Johnson Reef is turned into a 100,000 square meter isle. Fiery Cross reef, meanwhile, is now 11 times its natural size.

The senators said China has been violating its commitments before international bodies and ignoring calls from the US and ASEAN to exercise self-restraint.

They insisted a formal policy to address "Chinese coercion" is urgent and essential despite Washington's misgivings of antagonizing the growing superpower, one of its biggest trading partners.

"We also acknowledge that the costs of seeking to shape China's behavior in the maritime commons may affect other elements of our bilateral relationship," they said.

"But if China continues to pursue a coercive and escalatory approach to the resolution of maritime disputes, the cost to regional security and prosperity, as well as American interests, will only grow," they added.

 

Images of China's reclamation activities in Spratlys are from VERA Files.

AIR DEFENSE IDENTIFICATION ZONE BRUNEI AND TAIWAN CHINA COM CUARTERON REEF DEFENSE SECRETARY ASHTON CARTER FIERY CROSS REEF SOUTH CHINA SEA UNITED STATES
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