US mounts pressure on China over South China Sea non-militarisation

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Putting the onus on China, the US is pressing China’s President Xi Jinping to expand his non-militarisation pledge to cover the entire South China Sea in the backdrop of increased military activity in the area. During his visit to the US in September 2015, Mr Xi had said that “China does not intend to pursue militarisation” in the Spratly Islands. “We think it would be good if that non-militarization pledge, if he (Xi) would extend that across the entire South China Sea,” Daniel Kritenbrink, Senior Director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council said.

China has recently installed a surface-to-air missile on the disputed islands, after which other claimants of the region raised serious concerns. China claims almost entire South China Sea. Other Asian countries disagree with China’s claims. Nearly one-third of the world’s oil passes through the disputed region. “We’re going to encourage our Chinese friends and other countries in the region to refrain from taking steps that raise tensions,” Mr Kritenbrink said.

China has been turning reefs and low-lying features into larger land masses for runways and other military uses. The scale and pace at which China has been expanding its militarization in the region forced other claimants like Vietnam, Brunei, Philippines urging the international community to persuade China to maintain regional stability.

“We are concerned that China has taken a number of unilateral steps over the last several years that we think raise tensions in the region and are destabilizing,” Mr Kritenbrink said. He has also asked China to respect an international court’s verdict, due later this year, on Manila’s dispute with Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The US and other countries, including India, have been asking China to resolve the dispute peacefully and within the purview of international law. Vietnam had recently cited the example of India and Bangladesh resolving their maritime dispute amicably under international law and said that it should be an ideal way to resolve dispute in the South China Sea as well.

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