CAPITOL HILL — The U.S. will continue the recent pace of freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and will include allies and partners in future missions, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command told a Senate panel on Tuesday.
Adm. Phil Davidson, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, said North Korea represents the most immediate challenge in the region but China’s behavior regarding extending its territorial and economic influence is the bigger long-term threat to maintaining the free movement of trade and people in the region.
“Through fear and coercion, Beijing is working to expand its form of ideology in order to bend, break and replace the existing rules-based international order,” Davidson said. “In its place, Beijing seeks to create a new order, one with Chinese characteristics, led by China, an outcome that displaces the stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific that has endured for over 70 years.”
The most visible form of Chinese influence is the way the nation uses islands in the South China Sea to justify its increased territorial claims. International law does not recognize many of these moves, and the freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) are a way to let China know the international community does not accept these claims, Davidson said.