The Pentagon chief Ash Carter, cautioned Beijing on Tuesday that its continued militarization of the South China Sea will have consequences.
“China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea,” Carter said during a speech in San Francisco. “Specific actions will have specific consequences.”
“For our part it should be clear that the U.S. military will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, there as we do around the world, because the maritime domain must always be open and free to all,” the U.S. Defense Secretary said.
Carter’s speech follows worrying developments in the South China Sea which includes the Chinese deploying surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets on the contested island, Woody Island, part of the Paracel Island chain.
Watch Carter’s speech in this video posted by philstar.com:
When Carter was questioned about what the consequences of Beijing’s militarization of the region would be, he said that the American military was already increasing deployments to the Asia-Pacific region, reported Reuters. He added that the U.S. is spending $425 million over the next four years to pay for more exercises and training with nations in the region who were anxious by Beijing’s rhetoric and action.
Carter said that Beijing’s conduct has fueled trilateral pacts that would have been “unthinkable” several years ago.
Beijing claims around 90 percent of the South China Sea as its own territory. 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 says Fox. 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.
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.
The heavily contested sea is a key international trade route that is also rich in natural resources. Nearly $5 trillion in global trade passes through the area annually.
Watch this Associated Press video of U.S. Admiral Harry Harris testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he says that Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea threatens the region’s stability: