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(Opinion) Who Is Militarizing the South China Sea?

2015-12-21 08:55:50       source:The Diplomat

By Mark J. Valencia


December 20, 2015


"U.S. President Barack Obama and his Defense Secretary Ashton Carter have repeatedly warned China not to militarize the Spratly islands in the South China Sea. But China claims that it is the United States that is militarizing the region and the South China Sea disputes. Who is doing what, is it 'militarization,' and why does it matter?


On November 21, Obama appealed to the region's leaders gathered at the East Asia Summit, declaring that 'For the sake of regional stability, the claimants should halt reclamation, construction and militarization in disputed areas.' He was trying to build on the hint of progress manifest in an impromptu public statement by China's President Xi Jinping at the conclusion of his visit to Washington, in which he assured all that 'China does not intend to pursue militarization' of the Spratly Islands. Unfortunately Xi did not elaborate in public or private. But it is clear that the U.S. intends to hold him to its interpretation of the term. However, in a subsequent confusing twist, China's Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said at the East Asia Summit 'One should never link the military facilities with efforts to militarize the South China Sea. This is a false argument. It is a consistent Chinese position to firmly oppose the militarization of the South China Sea.'"


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