Following a year of China’s flagrant and aggressive activities in contested waters, some in Washington are calling for U.S. President Barack Obama to cancel China’s invitation to the largest maritime military exercise in the world.
Some leaders in Congress and the military want to exclude China, warning about its military buildup in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, which includes a rapid plan to build military-friendly infrastructure on new islands in waters where at least six Asian nations have competing claims. Satellite photos released last month show that in the past year China has built what Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, called a “Great Wall of Sand”: China has created new islands in the South China Sea and begun construction of helipads and anti-aircraft towers.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told me that China’s actions over the last year call into question the Obama administration’s plan to invite China to the next Rim of the Pacific exercise, scheduled for summer 2016 near Honolulu.
“I would not have invited them this time because of their bad behaviour,” said McCain. “In the last number of years they had filled in 60 acres of land around these islands; in the last year they have filled in 600 acres and they are putting in a runway. I don’t think there is any doubt about their territorial ambitions.”