South China Sea: ‘No let up’ – US vow to keep sea-lanes open after Beijing’s ‘violations’



US Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein vows “there will be no let up in our willingness or our ability to fly or sail where we need to and when we need to” in US commitments to defend the Philippines in the South China Sea.

The US has emphasised its commitment to the Mutual Defence Treaty with the Philippines as China pushes to dominate the Indo-Pacific region. The United States military affirms it will keep patrolling the disputed South China Sea to deter China from having strategic control of the region, said the US Air Force chief as he restated the US commitment to defend the Philippines in case of an armed attack. General David Goldfein, US Air Force Chief of Staff, said: “I’ll just tell you that there’s in our willingness or our ability to fly or sail where we need to and when we need to, and there will be no let up in the future.

“That’s our commitment to the region.”

Goldfein and General Charles Brown Jr., US Pacific Air Forces Commander, were in Manila on Friday, August 16, and spoke with an international group of reporters.

The announcements come amid a series of incursions by Chinese Navy vessels into Philippine territorial waters from February all through early August, as reported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

General Goldfein said any violation of “international rules of order” is “concerning”.

The general added: ”I think quite frankly any activity that we see both at sea and in the air, and increasingly now, we’re also having the same conversation in space and in cyber, has got to adhere to some international rules of order that we all live by.

“So, anybody in the region that violates those, it’s concerning.

“So part of our engagement here, and our presence here, is to make sure that we keep the global commons open for all.

“And everybody benefits when we can have freedom of navigation, to include China.”

Brown reiterated that the regular US freedom of navigation and overflight operations in the South China Sea are meant to be a deterrence against any attempt to bend the rules and to keep the sea-lanes open to international vessels and aircraft.

General Brown said: “We have to highlight the facts when those that don’t follow rules-based international order, no matter who that might be, we do highlight that.

“So, part of our operations are to deter, or also prove the fact that you should be able to fly, sail, and operate no matter what nation you are, where international law allows.

In recent years, China has reclaimed and militarised reefs in the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and the West Philippine Sea.

With it came an increase in Chinese military aircraft and vessels plying the strategic sea route, which China considers as its territory despite an international arbitral ruling that invalidated its claim.

On August 7, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its flotilla of other warships, called a “strike group,” visited Manila for a friendly port call.