- A ranking US Navy official urges Australia and other countries to send patrols near China’s man-made islands
- He reiterates that US will continue to operate in South China Sea as dictated by international laws
- The US Navy admiral, however, clarifies the conflict should not be seen as US vs. China
MANILA, Philippines – A ranking United States Navy admiral has called on Australia and other countries to challenge China’s claim of absolute sovereignty over some disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea by sending patrol ships to the contested waterways.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, Commander of the 7th fleet and one of the most senior officials in the US Navy, stopped short of saying that other countries in the region, including Australia, should not leave it to the Washington alone the task of confronting China’s rapid militarization in the disputed territories.
“This shouldn’t seem provocative. What we’re trying to ensure is that all countries, no matter size or strength, can pursue their interests based on the law of the sea and not have that endangered by some of these actions,” said Aucoin who was in Sydney this week for some high-level defense talks with Australian counterpart.
But Aucoin conceded the decision remains solely in the hands of these concerned nations.
“It’s up to those countries, but I think it’s in our best interests to make sure that those sea lines remain open, I’ll leave it at that,” the US Navy admiral added.
When asked whether China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles in the Paracel’s Woody Island would affect US’ preparedness to continue surveillance patrols over those areas, Aucoin echoed Washington’s oft-repeated stand in downplaying any threat posed by Chinese assertiveness in the region.
“We will fly, sail, operate wherever international law allows, including those areas,” he said. (Click here to read more)