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US Lawmaker: More Operations in South China Sea

This picture reportedly shows China's island-building activities in the disputed Spratly Islands area of the South China Sea. U.S. officials say freedom of navigation operations will continue.
US Lawmaker: More Operations in South China Sea
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The United States has increasingly carried out what have been called freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.

This month, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited a warship in the South China Sea in an effort to show America’s commitment to security in the area.

The exercises involve Navy ships and military aircraft. In a freedom of navigation operation, they are sent to areas where other countries have tried to restrict flights or shipping. The aim is to demonstrate that the international community does not accept such restrictions.

The freedom of navigation operations have brought strong reactions from China.

Now, some U.S. lawmakers have called on the Obama Administration to carry out more operations close to artificial islands China is developing in the disputed waterway.

Bob Corker of Tennessee is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He expressed his ideas on Wednesday.

He spoke before Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the committee.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker

Corker said the freedom of navigation exercises have not slowed China’s land reclamation efforts in the South China Sea.

“Neither the rhetoric nor the freedom of navigation operations have deterred or slowed down China’s land reclamation activities, including the stationing of military-related assets on these artificial islands.”

He said that China could take further actions if an international court rules against it in its maritime territorial dispute with the Philippines. And he warned such a ruling could place American interests at risk.

“But merely managing differences with China is not a successful formula, particularly when such management cedes U.S. influence and places American interests at risk in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.”

In his comments, Blinken said the number of freedom of navigation operations carried out by the U.S. military has increased. He added that they will continue.

Recent news reports, notably in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, say China may be considering plans to develop other areas beyond the Spratly Islands.

The reports say the U.S. Pacific Command has sent warplanes close to Scarborough Shoal, west of the Philippines. China is believed to have carried out survey work in that area. Those U.S. flights brought a sharp response from China.

China claims most of the South China Sea as its territory. However, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have competing claims to different parts of the area.

Nanjing University security expert Zhu Feng said he could not rule out Chinese construction of a lighthouse or a maritime monitoring post on Scarborough Shoal. However, he said a large land reclamation would there would be out of the question. The Wall Street Journal reported his comments.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Victor Beattie reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

artificial – adj. not natural, man-made

maritime – adj. related to the sea or ocean

formula – n. a plan or method for doing something

monitor – v. to observe or watch

navigationadj. of or related to the watching and controlling the movement of a vehicle from one place to another

commitmentn. a duty or responsibility

deterv. to prevent or stop