Over the South China Sea – China has completely militarized at least three of the many islands it built in the disputed South China Sea, providing them with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment, and fighters Equipped with jet. A top US military commander said on Sunday that the aggressive move threatens all the surrounding countries.
US Indo-Pacific Commander Adam John C. Aquilino said the hostile action was contrary to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s previous assurances that Beijing would not turn artificial islands in disputed waters into military bases. He said these efforts were part of China flexing its military might.
“I think in the last 20 years we have seen the largest military build-up by the PRC since World War II,” Aquilino told the Associated Press in an interview, using the initials of China’s formal name. “They have upgraded all their capabilities and this build-up of armament is destabilizing the sector.”
There was no immediate comment from Chinese officials. Beijing maintains that its military profile is purely defensive, organized to protect its sovereign rights. But after years of increased military spending, China now boasts the world’s second largest defense budget after the US and is rapidly modernizing its force with weapon systems including the J-20 stealth fighter, hypersonic missiles and two aircraft carriers. of which a third is under construction. ,
Aquilino spoke with the Associated Press on a US Navy reconnaissance plane that took off near a Chinese-held outpost in the Spratly Archipelago in the South China Sea, one of the world’s hottest regions. During the patrol, the P-8A Poseidon aircraft was repeatedly warned by Chinese callers that it had illegally entered Chinese territory and ordered the aircraft to turn away.
“China has sovereignty over the Spratly Islands as well as the surrounding maritime areas. Stay away immediately to avoid wrong decision,” said one of the stern radio messages in a veiled threat.
But the US Navy aircraft defied many warnings and pressed on defensively with its reconnaissance, but tense moments invited to the ship by two Associated Press reporters. “I am a sovereign defense United States naval aircraft that conducts legitimate military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” a US pilot radioed back to the Chinese.
“The exercise of these rights is guaranteed by international law and I am acting with respect to the rights and duties of all states,” he said.
Naval Commanding Officer Joel Martinez, who led the crew of the P-8A Poseidon, said there was an incident when a Chinese jet flew close to a US plane in a dangerous maneuver over the disputed area. He said the US aircraft crew calmly reminded China to abide by aviation safety rules.
As the P-8A Poseidon flew to an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,500 m) near the Chinese-occupied cliffs, some of the screens appeared on monitors like small towns, with multi-storey buildings, warehouses, hangars, ports, runways and White rounds. Aquilino said the structures were radar. Near Fiery Cross, more than 40 unspecified ships could clearly be seen anchored.
Aquilino said construction of missile arsenals, aircraft hangars, radar systems and other military facilities at Mischief Reef, Subi Reef and Fairy Cross has been completed, but it remains to be seen whether China will allow the construction of military infrastructure in other areas. Will carry forward
“The task of those islands is to extend the offensive capability of the PRC beyond their continental coasts,” he said. “They can fly all the offensive capabilities of fighters, bombers and missile systems.”
He said any military and civilian aircraft flying over the disputed waterway could easily come under the missile systems of the Chinese islands.
“So that’s the threat that exists, so it’s very worrying about the militarization of these islands,” he said. “They threaten all the countries that operate in the surrounding region and all international seas and airspace.”
When asked during her daily briefing about the news of China’s militarization of islands, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki referred questions to the Defense Department, but said, “Obviously any action in the South China Sea is our would be a matter of concern.”
China tried to shore up its vast territorial claims over nearly the entire South China Sea by building an island base on the Coral Atoll nearly a decade ago. The US responded by sending its warships through the area, which it calls Operation Mission Freedom. The United States has no claim, but has deployed naval ships and aircraft for decades to promote and patrol free navigation in international waterways and airspace.
China regularly opposes any action by US military in the region. The other parties – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei – claim all or part of the sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of goods are shipped each year.
Despite China’s aggression, long-running regional conflicts should only be resolved peacefully, Aquilino said, and sees the Philippine government’s successful move in 2013 to bring its disputes with China to international arbitration as a good Quoted as template.
A UN-backed arbitration tribunal that handled the case invalidated China’s broad historical claims in the South China Sea under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Beijing dismissed the decision as a sham and continues to disregard it.
Aquilino said Washington’s main objective in the disputed region is to “prevent war” and promote peace and stability through resistance, including engaging American allies and partners in projects with that objective.
“Should the deterrence fail, my second mission is to be prepared to fight and win,” said Aquilino, who leads the largest US combat command with 380,000 military and civilian personnel covering 36 countries and territories.
Associated Press writer David Rising in Bangkok contributed to this report.