China using ‘coercive tactics’ in maritime claims: Pentagon


China is using “coercive tactics” and fostering regional tensions as it expands its maritime presence in the South China Sea and elsewhere, but is avoiding triggering an armed conflict, the Pentagon said Friday.

In an annual report to Congress, the Defense Department outlined China’s rapid military growth and described how it is assertively defending sovereignty claims across the contested East China Sea and South China Sea.

Last year for instance, China deployed coast guard and PLA Navy ships in the South China Sea to maintain a “near-continuous” presence there.

And in the East China Sea, Beijing deployed planes and maritime law-enforcement ships to patrol near a chain of islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

“China is using coercive tactics… to advance their interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” the report states.

When asked to describe China’s coercive tactics, Abraham Denmark, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, told reporters that Chinese coast guard and fishing vessels sometimes act in an “unprofessional” manner.

They do so “in the vicinity of the military forces or fishing vessels of other countries in a way that’s designed to attempt to establish a degree of control around disputed features,” Denmark told reporters.

“These activities are designed to stay below the threshold of conflict, but gradually demonstrate and assert claims that other countries dispute,” he added.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital South China Sea, even waters close to Southeast Asian neighbors including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, which have competing claims.