Before the US secretary of state, John Kerry, begins his second visit to China and his fifth to Asia, the China Youth Daily — the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League of China — stated that the Freedom of Navigation program announced by Jimmy Carter in 1979 stands in the way of Beijing’s attempts to “reclaim” its territories in the disputed East and South China seas.
As about 50% of all world maritime transport goes through the South China Sea, maritime security is among the issues that Kerry will discuss with the Chinese authorities, said Jennifer Psaki, spokesperson for the State Department. Daniel Russel, US assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said on Feb. 5 that there were “growing concerns” that China is trying to gradually assert control over the area in the face of objections from its neighbors.
“This includes continued restrictions on access to Scarborough Shoal, pressure on the longstanding Philippine presence at the Second Thomas Shoal and the recent updating of fishing regulations covering disputed areas in the South China Sea,” said Russel. “Our view is that these actions have raised tensions in the region and have exacerbated concerns about China’s long-term strategic objectives.” For this reason, he suggested Beijing refrain from establishing an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the region as it did with the East China Sea late last year.
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