WASHINGTON – China is expanding its outposts in the South China Sea to include stationing for ships and potential airfields as part of its “aggressive” effort to exert sovereignty, the U.S. intelligence chief said Thursday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats. His comments underscore U.S. concern over land reclamation activities that could fuel tensions between China and its neighbors over disputed islands and reefs.
“Although China is looking for stable ties with the United States it’s more willing to accept bilateral and regional tensions in pursuit of its interests, particularly on maritime sovereignty issues,” Clapper said. He described China’s claims traced by a so-called nine-dash line — a rough boundary covering more than 80 percent of the South China Sea — as “exorbitant.”
The U.S. is not a claimant of territory in the South China Sea but does claim a national interest in the peaceful resolution of the disputes in a region crucial for world trade. China says its territorial claims have a historical basis and objects to what it consider U.S. meddling.