China using ‘low-intensity coercion’ in South China Sea — Pentagon


MANILA, Philippines — Beijing exercises “low-intensity coercion” to assert its claim on the South China Sea, the US Department of Defense or the Pentagon said in its annual report to the US Congress.

In its report, the Pentagon noted that the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) and the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia form the largest maritime force in the Indo-Pacific.

Beijing appears to portray itself as “reactive” on its official statements during periods of tension, the report read.

“China uses an opportunistically timed progression of incremental but intensifying steps to attempt to increase effective control over disputed areas and avoid escalation to military conflict,” the report read.

The Pentagon also noted how Beijing uses economic incentives and trade policies to deter opposition to its aggressive actions in the disputed South China Sea.

“In 2017, China extended economic cooperation to the Philippines in exchange for taking steps to shelve territorial and maritime disputes,” the Pentagon said.

The Philippine government sees China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to revive an ancient Silk Road network, as a “powerful idea” that will promote free trade and integrate economies across Asia and Europe.

So far, China has pledged to provide over $7 billion loans and grants for its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

The Pentagon also noted that a Chinese survey ship was located in the Benham or Philippine Rise, a un underwater plateau off the coast of Aurora.

Earlier this year, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the halt of all marine explorations and studies by foreign scientists in the Philippine Rise.

The president ordered the Philippine Navy to chase out any foreign fishing or research vessel in the area.

“Later in the spring, CCG boats reportedly fired warning shots over Philippine fishing boats near Union Bank,” the Pentagon said.

Another example of China’s low-intensity coercion would be using its navy, coast guard and maritime militia ships to patrol around Pag-asa Island and plant a flag on Sandy Cay in August 2017.

These actions were possibly Beijing’s reaction to Manila’s plans to upgrade its runway on Pag-asa Island, the largest of the nine features in the Spratly Islands.

The Pentagon also warned that China may soon install nuclear elements on its outposts in the Spratly Islands — Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs.