pentagon official has said that absence of clarification from the East
Asian country on its military modernisation efforts has significant
implications for regional stability.
“Absent clarification from China, its military modernisation efforts
hold significant implications for regional stability,” the US Pacific
Command Commander Admiral Robert Willard, said in his testimony before
House Armed Services Committee.
The region is developing its own conclusions about why the People’s
Liberation Army (PLA) continues to expand its ability to project power
outside China’s borders, and to range both US forces and its allies and
partners in the region with new anti-access and area-denial weaponry.
Willard said China’s rise will largely define Asia-Pacific environment in the 21st century.
He said China’s naval activities are a direct challenge to accepted
interpretations of international law and established international
“Of growing concern is China’s maritime behaviour. China’s recent
official statements and actions in what Beijing calls its –near seas —
represent a direct challenge to accepted interpretations of
international law and established international norms,” Willard said.
“While China does not make legal claims to this entire body of water, it
does seek to restrict or exclude foreign, in particular, US, military
maritime and air activities in the –near seas — an area that roughly
corresponds to the maritime area from the Chinese mainland out to the
–first island chain–(described, generally, as a line through Japan,
Taiwan, Philippines, and Indonesia) and including the Bohai Gulf, Yellow
Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea,” he said.
Willard said Chinese naval and maritime law enforcement vessels have
been assertive in recent years in trying to advance China’s territorial
claims in the South China and East China Seas which has resulted US
partners and allies in East Asia seeking additional support and
reassurance to balance and curb the Chinese behaviour.
“Unquestionably, China has made tremendous investment in its maritime
capabilities across the board, to include the PLA navy. And we have no
doubt that they have aspirations to make that a blue-water navy that
they can deploy around the world, and they’re demonstrating that today
with anti-piracy operations in and near the Gulf of Aden,” Willard said.
“They demonstrated it to a lesser extent by moving some of their surface
fleet into the Mediterranean Sea during the Libya crisis in order to
assist in evacuating Chinese citizens. So they are expanding their
fleet, patrolling more, penetrating the first island chain and extending
their operations further into the Pacific on a fairly steady pace,” he
Willard said that many of China’s maritime policy statements and claims
stand in contrast to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
The US has consistently sought the appropriate balance between the
interests of countries in controlling activities off their coasts with
the interests of all countries in protecting freedom of navigation.
“China has questioned whether a non-party may assert such rights under
UNCLOS, a baseless argument but one that would be removed if the US was a
party to UNCLOS,” he said.
Willard said China continues to accelerate its offensive air and missile
developments without corresponding public clarification about how these
forces will be utilised.
“Of particular concern is the expanding inventory of ballistic and
cruise missiles (which include anti-ship capability) and the development
of modern, fourth- and fifth-generation stealthy combat aircraft,” he
“In conjunction, China is pursuing counter-space and cyber capabilities
that can be used to not only disrupt US military operations, but also to
threaten the space and cyber-based information infrastructure that
enables international communications and commerce,” Willard said.