Expressing apprehension over China’s behaviour in the disputed South China Sea, a top American Senator said Beijing has repositioned itself as a geopolitical rival of the US. “We’ve reached a point now though where there’s no denying the fact that China has positioned itself as a geopolitical rival to the United States,” Senator Bob Corker Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said during a Congressional hearing. “The calculated and incremental strategy on the part of Beijing to challenge US power is having real consequences for US interests and international norms in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” he added.
Many experts feel that China will declare an air defence identification zone in the South China Sea. “And China could undertake further destabilising actions if the international tribunal ruling as expected goes against Chinese interests,” Mr Corker said.
Senator Benjamin Cardin has said that China’s continued reclamation activities in the South China Sea, violation of international law and the militarisation of the islands is a “clear attempt to bully its smaller neighbours and to clearly challenge the US” as a Pacific power in one of the most important zones, trade navigation zones in the world.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Antony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State, said that the US has a profound national interest in the way the various claimant pursue their claims and anything that threatens freedom of navigation, that threatens the peaceful resolution of disputes or that undermines international law, including obligations, is a problem for it.
“In addition China is making it more difficult for us to carry out our own commitments and our own alliances. That is also a problem for us,” Mr Blinken said. “China’s actions are alienating virtually every country in the neighbourhood and they are looking to the US increasingly,” he added.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea as its territory and is building artificial islands there along with airports and other infrastructure. The Philippines, Vietnam and others also claim territory claimed by China. Since 2013, large-scale land reclamation and construction of the artificial islands have been speeded up in the South China Sea by China along with the construction of military facilities on these artificial islands. Increased military deployments in the region by all sides have significantly increased the possibility for conflict.
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