China achieves military goals, slows building in South China Sea
Guess China is on track as far as militarization in the South China Sea.
SOUTH CHINA SEA — A top U.S. military official says China has slowed construction and island-building in the South China Sea as it has achieved its immediate military goals for the region.
The South China Morning Post reports that during a presentation at the Brookings Institute, General Joseph Dunford claimed Chinese President Xi Jinping had reneged on a promise in 2016 to then-President Obama not to militarize the South China Sea.
Despite overlapping claims by several different countries, Beijing asserts ownership of the South China Sea based on historic rights. In recent years, it began a massive building program to reclaim land in the disputed region by increasing the size of existing reefs or creating new islands.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China has constructed ports, military installations, and airstrips on islands in the Paracels and Spratlys. Woody Island, in particular, has been militarized through the deployment of fighter jets, cruise missiles, and a radar system.
According to Dunford, building on the Chinese-claimed islands has been slowing, likely because they have been developed to the point where they can provide the military capability required by the Chinese.
He warns that future expansion in the area must be checked with clear and collective action, and not necessarily with a military response, as diplomatic and economic tools can also be used to hold people accountable.
While the U.S. has no official position on territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea, it periodically conducts freedom of navigation operations to challenge Beijing's claims and maintain open sea lanes.
This entails passing close to China-claimed reefs, which draws the ire of the Chinese.
The South China Morning Post reports that China had recently begun construction on its third aircraft carrier, which is expected to expand its ability to launch larger and more varied aircraft.
Beijing's military build-up has led Washington to develop long-range missiles that can be launched beyond the range of Chinese missile defence systems.
The U.S. is likewise adapting its naval strategy to deal with a rival that may challenge its ability to navigate globally.
According to Dunford, there is also a need to improve military communication between the U.S. and China.
Over the past decade, the U.S. has tried and failed to establish regular communication between top military officials to improve understanding, something analysts attribute to a cultural difference.
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