The commander of U.S. Pacific Command and nominee to be America’s next ambassador to South Korea has warned that the U.S. must stand against the threat of Chinese hegemony in Asia.
Admiral Harry Harris said on Wednesday that the Western world is approaching an inflection point in history, when “freedom and justice hang in the balance,” CNN reported.
Adm. Harris was speaking as he handed over control of Pacific Command—now re-named the Indo-Pacific Command—ending his three-year tenure over America’s largest area of operations.
“China remains our biggest long-term challenge,” Adm. Harris said, warning that only “focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies” can stop China achieving “its dream of hegemony in Asia.”
Chinese-American relations in Asia have been strained by Beijing’s increasingly determined military policy, especially in the South China Sea. China has constructed a network of artificial islands and reefs in the region to enforce territorial claims that overlap with five of its neighbors.
The bases are being steadily militarized with a range of missiles, electronic warfare systems and aircraft, drawing condemnation from the U.S. and neighboring countries. China claims the islands are purely defensive, but their existence has given Beijing effective control of the South China Sea without a shot being fired.