Chinese bullying in South China Sea changing international rules, top U.S. admiral warns

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 by

( The U.S. Navy’s top admiral in the Pacific, speaking at a maritime conference in Australia, said last week that there is a “palpable sense” in the region that a “might makes right” mentality has taken over, warning that the present chaos in the Middle East, North Africa and eastern Europe could be precursors to the future.

Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, also noted that the acceleration of military activity in the region – especially the South China Sea – and the lack of transparency about the activity is troubling. Swift called on Pacific nations to obey long-held international rules in the region that have been the “gold standard” for avoiding war.

In addition, noted the Washington Post, which cited remarks provided by Swift’s staff, the admiral also emphasized the importance of freedom of navigation operations, which the U.S. Navy performs all over the world to demonstrate how international waters should be open to all.

In recent months, in fact, the Pentagon has ordered two such missions in the South China Sea over Chinese objections, while encouraging partners and allies to do the same. That continues to be a point of contention with Beijing, which continues to bolster its own military presence in the region, chiefly on islets and reefs it has reclaimed, by deploying radar, surface-to-air missiles and fighter jets. In addition, China has warned the U.S. not to interfere in what it says are sovereign activities.



“The reality is, demonstrated from the days of sail, the great British, French and Spanish armadas, as true today as then, that the canary in the coal mine of regional and global stability and prosperity isn’t found in a cave, but on international waters,” Swift said, according to the provided remarks “We all have assumed so long these international seas are the domain of all free men. Perhaps now we too easily dismissed these freedom enablers, these guarantors of stability and prosperity, as simply ‘freedom of navigation.’”

Swift, who spoke at Australia National University at a conference that was focused on maritime security in the Indian Ocean, Pacific and additional Asian waterways, said that India, with whom the Pentagon is forging closer ties, as well as smaller nations like Bangladesh and Myanmar have traditionally worked together to peacefully resolve disputes. He called on countries to do the same “east of the Straits of Malacca,” a region that includes the South China Sea.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that a contest is underway in the most vulnerable waters of the Indo-Asia-Pacific,” Swift said. “On one side is a potential return of might makes right after more than seventy years of stability. On the other is a continuum of the international rules-based system that has served us all so well, with limitless potential to continue to do so.”

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