The commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet said China’s behavior in the contested South China Sea goes against the international rules-based system that has served the international community since World War II.
“Over the past seventy years, this principled system has fostered a highly interconnected neighborhood in which exclusivity and hierarchy have no place,” Admiral Scott Swift told a maritime security conference in Canberra, Australia, March 16.
“We are all locals here; there are no outsiders or subordinate states among the Indo-Asia-Pacific nations. We were all given voice after World War II, regardless of economic stature, heritage, culture, form of government, or military strength,” Admiral Swift said.
“Some nations do not see it this way and, seeking to right perceived imbalances or wrongs of the past, are abandoning the international rules-based system in the process,” he said.
“As a consequence, portions of the sea are besieged by word or deed to serve unilateral interests alone,” said the Admiral.
“[Manifested] by unprecedented examples of aggressive construction and militarization on disputed land features as well as legal appeals to historic pasts that are inconsistent with international law, there is a palpable sense that an arc of ‘might makes right’ is returning to the region after more than seventy years of security and stability,” Admiral Swift said.
Watch highlights from Admiral Swift’s speech here in this Associated Press video:
While Admiral Swift didn’t mention a country specifically, it was obvious through his description of the challenges the region faces he was referring to China.
Over the past several years, the Chinese have been busy turning atolls into islands capable of being militarized. They have created 3,000 acres of new territory on seven reefs. As part of that, they have built three airstrips.
At the center of the dispute are two island chains — the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands. In February, the Chinese deployed surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets on the contested Woody Island, which is part of the Paracel Island chain.
“Attempts to justify these activities at sea are often based on channeling nationalist history outward, the sort of thing that may stoke patriotism at home, but has no place among responsible nations in international waters,” Admiral Swift said.
For an overview of what Beijing has been up to in the South China Sea, watch this TomoNews US video:
Fueled by expansionist ideals and anti-foreign rhetoric, Beijing claims most of the South China Sea is its own sovereign territory.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that a contest is underway in the most vulnerable waters of the Indo-Asia-Pacific. As mentioned earlier, on one side is a potential return of might makes right after more than seventy years of stability,” said Admiral Swift.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have contesting claims in the area, but what Beijing is doing dwarfs all of their efforts combined. Beijing has repeatedly rejected international arbitration over the islands.
“Charmless offensives, which have offered dubious reassurances in the past, are clearly no longer charming — and no longer adequate to buy silence or distract regional countries from aggressive activities occurring just beyond their shores,” Admiral Swift added.
Admiral Swift’s comments follow those made by other top U.S. officials and military leaders who have expressed their concerns over Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea.
For a tongue and cheek view of the issue, watch this recent episode from China Uncensored: