U.S. Navy officers operate on the flight deck control tower as U.S. military aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchors off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. Lt. Cmdr. Tim Hawkins told The Associated Press that American forces will continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever international law allows when asked if China's newly built islands could restrain them in the disputed waters.
AP/Bullit Marquez
US wary of taking arms against China's domination — study
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - June 13, 2018 - 12:26pm

MANILA, Philippines — China's expanding militarization in the South China Sea might complicate the ability of the United States to fulfill its treaty obligations with its allies in the region, including the Philippines.

According to a study published by the US Congressional Research Service titled "Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress," Beijing's control over the East China Sea and South China Sea could have implications for security in the Asia Pacific.

"...the United States could be drawn into such a crisis or conflict as a result of obligations the United States has under bilateral security ties with Japan and the Philippines," the study read.

The US and the Philippines have been treaty allies since 1951 after signing a Mutual Defense Treaty.

The US congressional study noted that China's domination in the region would complicate the ability of the US to operate its forces in the Western Pacific.

US forces currently operate in the region to maintain regional stability, conduct engagement and partner-building operations, respond to crises and execute war plans.

"Developments such as these could in turn encourage countries in the region to reexamine their own defense programs and foreign policies, potentially leading to a further change in the region's structure," the report read.

This pronouncement comes should crisis or conflict arise between China and Taiwan or other US allies such as Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

The report also noted some observers' conerns that China may be using the maritime disputes raise doubts among US allies in the region over the dependability of Washington as an ally or partner.

The US congressional study also warned that Beijing may be driving a wedge between Washington and its regional allies and partners "to weaken US-led regional security architecture and thereby facilitate greater Chinese influence over the region."

Beijing, on the other hand, has been insisting that its military installations on man-made islands in the South China Sea are not directed to any country.

In the past months, China has deployed anti-cruise ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jamming equipment on its bases in the Spratly Islands. Beijing had also landed a nuclear-capable bomber on Paracel Islands, its largest outpost in the Paracel Islands.

This has pushed the US to disinvite China from the Rim of the Pacific Exercises, the largest multinational maritime exercise.

Beijing has since called out Washington for "playing up" the maritime dispute over the South China Sea.

"We urge certain people in the US to give up all the meaningless hyping up surrounding the situation and do more in a responsible way to enhance trust and cooperation between regional countries and promote regional peace and stability," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Meanwhile, European countries have started to assert freedom of navigation and challenge China's increasing militarization in the disputed waterway.

During the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore earlier this month, France and the United Kingdom expressed commitment to continue to sail in the contested waters. 

In fact, France has sailed at least ships through the South China Sea last year, according to French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly.

"We believe negotiations are the way to go. Meanwhile, we should be clear that the fait accompli is not a fait accepted," Parly said in the defense and security summit.

"Europeans have started to mobilize more widely in support of this endeavor... I believe we should broaden this effort even further," she added.

Related video:

CHINA FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION OPERATIONS SOUTH CHINA SEA UNITED STATES WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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