All eyes are on the US Pacific naval fleet. Source: Wikimedia
US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter has warned Beijing against any provocative over the South China Sea but also called for increased military cooperation with China.
At an Asia security conference in Singapore, he said that Beijing risked erecting a “Great Wall of self-isolation” with its military outposts on the contested reefs.
“I hope that this development doesn’t occur, because it will result in actions being taken by both the United States and … by others in the region which would have the effect of not only increasing tensions but isolating China,” Carter said at the Shangri-La Dialogue.
He claimed the US would continue to be the “most powerful military and main underwriter of security” in the region for the foreseeable future while advocating the establishment of a “security network” to include China.
During the summit, Japan’s Defence Minister Gen Nakatani said he was deeply concerned about the unilateral attempts to disrupt the sea, arguing that no country could be an “outsider” on regional stability.
Tokyo’s strongest statement on the contested sea comes despite improvements in the bilateral relationship.
Nakatani mentioned the massive reclamation works and the construction of military outposts.
“Such unilateral attempts to alter the status quo and consolidate such changes as fait accompli considerably deviate from the maritime order based on the principles of the international community,” Nakatani told the event.
US Pacific naval chief Admiral Harry Harris added: “We want to co-operate where we can, but we just have to be ready as a military to confront them if we must.
“We’ve seen positive behaviour in the last several months by China. I’m encouraged by the activities.”
Beijing’s Rear Admiral Guan Youfei of China’s international military cooperation office said Carter’s remarks pointed to a “Cold-War mentality.”
Guan told the event: “China would like to join the US safeguard regional security, but the US should first stop its arms sale to Taiwan and reduce highly frequent close-in reconnaissance against China.
“I believe Carter’s remarks are meant to convince other countries in the region to isolate China.”
An international arbitration body is expected to rule this month on a case brought by Manila over the contested Scarborough Shoal with Beijing denying it will recognise the ruling.
Carter risked angering China again by saying the ruling provided an “opportunity for China and the rest of the region to recommit to a principled future, to renewed diplomacy and to lowering tensions, rather than raising them”.