WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Thomas Zimmer — On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the US Navy sent a destroyer ship within 12 miles of a disputed island in the South China Sea and plans to carry out similar operations in the coming months.
"I find those risks to be far smaller than some commentators fear," Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative Director Gregory Polling said. "China's response to this was loud and angry in words, but measured on the water."
While there are risks of miscalculation, Polling noted, China’s response to the United States is the same as its response to other nations concerning freedom of navigation disputes.
"US officials, with the support of regional states including Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, have determined that doing nothing to physically contest China's excessive claims carries greater long-term risks," Polling explained.
He suggested all concerned nations need to come together to resolve the situation.
"The only long-term solution to the South China Sea dilemma requires that all states in the region agree to explain exactly what they are claiming and bring those claims into accord with international law," Polling concluded. "Then they can find an accommodation on sharing resources and the like."
China has been constructing artificial islands on top of the coral reef habitats of the Spratly Islands, a group of more than 750 islands and reefs, over the past few months. Beijing claimed sovereignty over the land and the 12 nautical mile zone surrounding the islands.
The United States has warned that it does not recognize the Chinese claims of sovereignty over the man-made islands, and has repeatedly raised concerns over Beijing’s activities in the region.
Former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP) member Carl Baker told Sputnik there is a possibility for miscalculation, but both sides will ensure that does not happen.
"Certainly there is a chance for miscalculation, but some of the recent agreements suggest both will work hard to avoid that," Baker said.
Baker explained he does not plan to see any real resolution to the dispute as long as both sides refuse to accept any outside involvement.
"So, I expect the resolution to be a new modus vivendi where the US continues its freedom of navigation operations in a very cautious way, and China continues to shadow these patrols to demonstrate its capacity to control the maritime space near its facilities," Baker concluded.
On Tuesday, US Navy destroyer Lassen reportedly passed the Subi and Mischief reefs as part of a patrol lasting several hours. The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed the incident was illegal and a violation of China’s sovereignty.
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