10:15 GMT +326 March 2017
    Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., US Navy Commander, U.S. Pacific Command walks past a photograph showing an island that China is building on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea

    Pentagon Slams White House For Dragging Feet on South China Sea Patrol

    © AP Photo/ Cliff Owen
    Asia & Pacific
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    US-Chinese Standoff in South China Sea (50)

    Washington’s aggressive decision to sail in waters claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea certainly angered officials there. But for the Pentagon, the controversial move came far too late, stalled since May by the White House.

    On Tuesday, the USS Lassen conducted a patrol within the 12-mile limit of Beijing’s artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago. While the US insisted that the incident was a routine freedom-of-navigation operation, China was quick to rebuke the aggressive actions.

    "China strongly urges the US side to conscientiously handle China’s serious representations, immediately correct its mistake and not take any dangerous or provocative acts that threaten China’s sovereignty and security interests," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

    But according to Reuters, the Larssen’s patrol was a long time coming, with Pentagon officials pushing for a naval challenge to Chinese claims since mid-May. Citing anonymous defense officials, the Department of Defense continuously ran up against opposition from the White House and State Department.

    Part of the reason for the repeated delays was that the Obama administration wanted to avoid any appearance of retaliation for other disputes between the two nations. Conducting patrols soon after the US accused China of being involved in the US Office of Personnel Management hack, for example, would send the wrong message.

    "The concern was that, if we looked like we were responding to something the Chinese had done, it would undermine our assertion that this is a matter of international law, and our rights to navigate the seas," one official told Reuters.

    According to these officials, the delays allowed Beijing to solidify its territorial claims, and thereby made Tuesday’s patrol tenser than it would have been five months ago.

    "Delaying the patrols actually made it a bigger deal," the source said. "This may have diminished the initial strategy that these patrols should be a regular, ordinary matter."

    It wasn’t until September that the Obama administration at last conceded to the advice of the Defense Department.

    "All of this attention that has been given to it has undermined the effectiveness of freedom of navigation operations," Bonnie Glaser, a security expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Reuters.

    According to another US official, the delays also gave the Obama administration time to analyze all potential risks of a US-China military confrontation. Washington wanted to make sure that Beijing was fully aware that the message being sent was a challenge to China’s territorial claims, not an overt military offensive.

    "Our aim was to ensure we made smart decisions to advance our strategic objectives in the Asia-Pacific region, including on maritime issues," the official told Reuters.

    A highly contested waterway through which nearly $5 trillion in trade passes annually, China lays claims to most of the South China Sea. There are, however, overlapping claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia.

    The United States has argued that Beijing’s construction of artificial islands atop submerged reefs in the Spratly archipelago do not grant China territorial claims. The chain lies nearly 1,000 miles from the Chinese mainland, in what the US considers to be international waters.

    China maintains that it has every right to build within its own territory, and that the islands will be used primarily for humanitarian purposes.

    Since Beijing’s land reclamation efforts began, the United States has conducted a number of military exercises in the region and pressured Pacific allies into taking more aggressive action against China.

    On Wednesday, US officials also said that more patrols would be conducted in the future.

    "We will do it again. We will sail in international waters at a time and place of our choosing," an anonymous official told AFP.

    US-Chinese Standoff in South China Sea (50)


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    • avatar
      This incessant warmongering is extremely provocative. By its latest deeds, the US has truly shown that they are a destabilizing force in the world.
    • avatar
      in reply toespenskrdal(Show commentHide comment)
      The evil empire is not A destabilizing force in the world but THE destabilizing force in the world. Big difference :-))
    • avatar
      "We will do it again. We will sail in international waters at a time and place of our choosing," an anonymous official told AFP.
      And you probably won't be anonymous after helping to start WWIII, you idiot.
    • avatar
      GREAT!! Wait until China began doing same. Then go running calling diplomats. Or erecting sanctions. Expect China to begin getting rid of all inside U.S. Who next to buy . India? They know about sanctions and arrogance once you inside U.S and owning a lot.
    • Neochrome
      Yet, Chinese reclamation efforts go on. You REALLY showed them now, making them shrug their shoulders. What is US gonna do next, put economic sanction on China? LOL (I mean literally loud out laughing).
      Next time send USS Donald Cook, really curious to see if they gonna leave South China See as fast as they left Black Sea.
    • avatar
      Compare that shiny sat photo the US has when they have something to show, versus that garbage they presented regarding Russia in Ukraine or MH-17.
    • avatar
      There is no doubt that the United States is a rouge nation who's intents are world hegemony under the rule of US trans national corporations and the institution of subsistence living standards for the working class along with the destruction of the environment. That being said China also shares the blame for these incursions. You cannot appease a bully, you cannot tie your future to a gang of criminals and not expect double dealing. There is nothing the United States does that is not a scam, period. China should have chose slower development rather than sell out to the trans nationals. All China can do now is wring their hands and shout "foul", as China is completely entangled in the US web of deceit and treachery . When you make deals with the devil you dance to his tune. China will be lucky not to lose it's sovereignty completely as the US demands more and more so called economic liberalizations such as permitting US banksters access to the Chinese economy. What choice does China have but to accept the constant military and economic encroachments on their sovereignty as untangling the web would be a monumental undertaking.
    • avatar
      The Pentagon is legitimately concerned about the gross incompetence in the White House. However, it doesn't really matter as the US has been funding it's own demise by trading and building up China for the past few decades ensuring they have a strong military. China has 250 advanced ships in the Sound China Sea. Hmmm....where did they get all that money?
    • avatar
      The US should also propose to the Hague to rename the South China Sea to something like "Sound International waters".
    • avatar
      China make so much noise about if the US come there will be a consequence, it is unacceptable, we will fight it back. We have heard all those noise before, and never has been any fire from that smoke. And they know they are losing credibility, every time they say they going to do something and don't do it, they lose credibility. If you can't do something don't say it, or, if you say it, just say what you can do. In the end Russia is the only country in the world who can face the Americans bring them down. If China is really serious about to become a super power, they have to start talking less and act, they only way you will be recognised is acting, not talking.
    • avatar
      Is it a case of 'too slow to act' or China has outpaced USA on South China sea?
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