China increasingly using PLA as instrument of coercion – US

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star
China increasingly using PLA as instrument of coercion � US
US and Chinese flags are seen before a meeting between US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 8, 2023.
AFP / Mark Schiefelbein / Pool

MANILA, Philippines — China’s People’s Liberation Army is no longer in the background, with Beijing increasingly turning to the PLA as an instrument of coercion in trying to achieve its revisionist aims in the East and South China Seas, according to an official of the United States Department of Defense.

US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner said the Pentagon would release the annual China Military Power Report that underscores the agency’s fundamental assessment.

“We have seen the PLA aircraft and maritime vessels continue to engage in coercive and risky behavior against US ally and partner forces operating in accordance with international law. This is happening in the Taiwan Strait and in the East and the South China Seas and beyond,” Ratner said during the Center for Strategic and International Studies Conference on “China’s Power: Up for Debate 2023” last Friday.

“This includes PLA activities in the air and at sea that increase the likelihood of an accident that could spiral into crisis or conflict,” he added.

The US defense official pointed out that the PLA is modernizing, but China is using its military tool very much in the background and diplomatically and economically driven in terms of how it is trying to achieve its foreign policy aims.

“And what the China Military Power Report is putting forward, what it noted last year but increasingly notes this year, is that isn’t the case anymore, that the PLA… is now in the forefront of the way that Beijing is going about trying to achieve its revisionist aims in the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea, border with India and beyond, and I think that’s a significant change in the PLA’s strategy,” he said.

Ratner noted that China continues its rapid expansion, modernization and diversification of its nuclear forces, all encased in a lack of transparency that extends further to domains such as space and cyber.

The US, he said, is working with countries across Southeast Asia to acquire asymmetric capabilities to counter Beijing’s coercive activities.

He added that the US is bringing together historic capability investments and momentum with allies and partners to deliver a US-force posture in the region that is more mobile, distributed, resilient and lethal.

With the Philippines, the US defense official cited that his country’s forces would now have access to four new strategic locations across the country as part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The US reaffirmed that an armed attack on Philippine public vessels, aircraft and armed forces, including those of its coast guard in the South China Sea, would invoke US mutual defense commitments, like the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

Washington has expressed alarm over reports on destruction of corals in the West Philippine Sea, which the military and coast guard suspect as Chinese activities.

US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson had described the destruction of marine resources as “troubling.”

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