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Pentagon chief warns China over South China Sea islands

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter: “There should be no mistake: the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.”

The US military chief has warned China to stop building islands in the South China Sea, vowing that the US will not stop patrolling international waters and airspace in the Asia-Pacific region.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made the defiant remarks on Wednesday during a ceremony in Hawaii to recognize Admiral Harry B. Harris, the new commander of US military forces in the Pacific.

“There should be no mistake: the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world,” Carter said at the US military’s joint base at Pearl Harbor.

This handout photo taken on March 16, 2015 by satellite imagery provider Digital Globe shows a satellite image of vessels purportedly dredging sand at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea. (AFP photo)

Washington accuses Beijing of undergoing a massive “land reclamation” program in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, and says China’s territorial claims of the man-made islands could further militarize the region.

A Chinese state-owned newspaper warned Monday that a war between the United States and China is “inevitable,” unless Washington stops demanding Beijing halt its construction projects in the South China Sea.

“If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea,” The Global Times, an influential newspaper owned by the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper the People’s Daily, said in an editorial Monday.

This May 10, 2015 US Navy handout photo shows two F/A-18 Super Hornets (L and R) and two Royal Malaysian Air Force jets, flying above the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) operating in the South China Sea. (AFP photo)

Carter said on Wednesday that US warships and planes would carry on patrolling the region, accusing China of heightening tensions in the area.

“China is out of step with both international norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture, and the regional consensus in favor of non-coercive approaches to this and other long-standing disputes,” he said.

Washington does not recognize China’s sovereignty in the disputed areas and is weighing sending surveillance aircraft and warships to test its territorial claims.

The Obama administration is trying to keep its focus on a widely advertised shift to Asia, which it has pursued since 2011. The White House argues that no region is more important to the United States’ long-term interests than Asia.

A US Marine amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) makes its way to shore after leaving an amphibious transport dock ship during a landing exercise some 220 kilometers east of the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. (AFP photo)

A new assessment released last month by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues that the Obama administration’s Asia pivot has not been successful and American power and influence in the region has been declining.

Observers believe America’s efforts to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region is aimed at containing China.

China accuses the United States of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.


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