Tensions continue to simmer in the South China Sea


BEIJING — This is our weekly look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:

The top American military commander in the Indo-Pacific region says the U.S. will maintain the recent pace of freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea aimed at challenging China’s territorial claims.

Adm. Phil Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee last Tuesday that China’s effort to extend its territorial and economic influence was a bigger long-term threat to the free movement of trade and people in the region than North Korea.

“Through fear and coercion, Beijing is working to expand its form of ideology in order to bend, break and replace the existing rules-based international order,” Davidson was quoted as saying by the U.S. Naval Institute News.

“In its place, Beijing seeks to create a new order, one with Chinese characteristics, led by China, an outcome that displaces the stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific that has endured for over 70 years,” Davidson said.

Davidson said allies and partners in the region, including the U.K, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and France, are stepping up their South China Sea operations in cooperation with the U.S. showing the international community’s “willingness to push back.”

Britain has said it plans to deploy its new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth with its two squadrons of F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, to the South China Sea. China is believed to have canceled a meeting with Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in response to the announcement earlier this month.