Pentagon releases Asia-Pacific maritime security strategy

Updated: 2015-08-22 05:37

By CHEN WEIHUA in Washington(China Daily USA)

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The US Department of Defense announced on Friday its comprehensive strategy for maritime security in the Asia Pacific, pointing fingers at China's land reclamation in the South China Sea.

The report, titled Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy, has detailed descriptions of land reclamation in the South China Sea. It said that China reclaimed more than 2,900 acres of land from December 2013 to June 2015, accounting for approximately 95 percent of all reclaimed land in the Nansha Islands, called the Spratlys in the Pentagon report.

The report outlines four lines of effort Pentagon is employing in the region. They include strengthening US military capacity to what Pentagon claims to deter conflict and coercion and respond decisively when needed; working with US allies and partners to build their capacity to address potential challenges in their waters and across the region; leveraging military diplomacy; and working to strengthen regional security institutions and encourage the development of an open and effective regional security architecture.

David Shear, US assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said one notable recent development in maritime Asia is China's expansion of disputed features and artificial island construction.

"While land reclamation is not new and China is not the only claimant to have conducted reclamation, China's recent activities outweigh other efforts in size, pace, and nature," he told a press conference at the Pentagon on Friday.

In a May testimony before the US Senate, Shear told lawmakers that in the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, Vietnam has 48 outposts, the Philippines 8, China 8, Malaysia 5, and China's Taiwan 1.

While Shear repeated what his boss Ash Carter said earlier that the US will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as US forces do all around the world at present, he did not reply to reporters on Friday about whether the US forces will go within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese facilities.

Shear, a former State Department official, noted that US-China defense diplomacy has yielded positive results, including a reduction in unsafe intercepts since August, 2014.

He said Pentagon and China's Ministry of National Defense concluded a historic memorandum of understanding on rules and behavior for safety of air and maritime encounters during President Obama's visit to Beijing last November.

"This MOU currently includes an annex on ship-to-ship encounters, and we are working to conclude an annex on air-to-air encounters by the end of 2015," Shear said.

He said the US has urged China and other claimants to implement a permanent halt to reclamation, construction and militarization of those features. "I stress that that is a -- an approach we have used not only with the Chinese, but with the other claimants as well," said Shear.

China has long opposed the US of hyping the tensions in the South China Sea and regarded the US government as biased in looking at China's maritime territorial disputes with US allies in order to achieve the US rebalance to Asia strategy.

At the Foreign Ministers' Meeting of the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum held early this month in Malaysia, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized that the situation in the South China Sea is stable on the whole and there is no possibility of major conflicts.

He said China objects to any non-constructive words or deeds that attempt to exaggerate the disagreements, hype up confrontation and heat up tensions, which do not conform to reality.

Wang noted that China also has a stake in the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, adding that up to now, there has not been a single case in which freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is impeded.

"China stands ready to work with other parties to continue to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea," he said.

The foreign minister said China is a victim on the South China Sea issue, citing the fact how the Philippines illegally occupied a Chinese island there. He said China has exercised utmost restraint in order to uphold peace and stability there.

Wang reiterated China position of seeking to peacefully resolve disputes through negotiation and consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"This position will not change," he said.

China announced the completion of land reclamation at the end of June. But it will build facilities mainly for public good purposes, including multi-functional lighthouse, search and rescue facilities for maritime emergencies, meteorological observatory station, maritime scientific and research center, as well as medical and first aid facilities, according to Wang.

"China stands ready to open these facilities to other countries upon completion. As the largest littoral state in the South China Sea, China has the capability and obligation to provide regional countries with these much needed public goods at sea," he said.