The two Pacific powers are vying for influence as China continues its rapid development of military assets on islands and atolls in the region.
The United States is stepping up its firepower in the South China Sea to counter China’s military expansion in the region.
Tensions are continuing to rise in an area disputed by several Asian countries and where the United States maintains a strong strategic interest.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter says the United States will not surrender its position as a major Pacific power.
“We’re not out to keep China down, but we don’t look for anybody to dominate the region and certainly not for anybody to push the United States out. We are a Pacific power. We are there to stay. It is where half of humanity lives, half of the world’s economy, an important part of the American future. We’re there to stay.”
China controversially claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, despite rival claims from Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.
Every year, trillions of dollars of global trade pass through the sea, which is also believed to contain huge oil and gas deposits.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, says China’s increasing military presence in the South China Sea is designed to pressure the US.
“It is very clear to me that those capabilities that are being developed are intended to limit our ability to move into the Pacific or to operate freely within the Pacific. In this particular budget, we have focused on capability development that allows us to maintain a competitive advantage versus China. It is also why we are fielding the most modern capabilities in the Department (of Defence) to the Pacific first.”
Read more: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/02/26/us-toughens-talk-south-china-sea