China has seized on inaction and a dwindling U.S. pacific fleet to continue to push forward in the South China Sea, much to the frustration of Republican Sen. [crscore]John McCain[/crscore].
The Obama administration conducted a freedom of navigation exercise Oct. 27, 2015 within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island to remind China it can’t infringe on the movement of ships in international waters.
But despite promises of more exercises, they remain unfulfilled.
The reason for the delay? One defense official tells Reuters the navigation exercises are delayed because there is no consensus on the timing of the patrols, and additionally, running exercises may “escalate the situation and ratchet it up.”
McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, blasted the Obama administration for delays in sending another freedom of navigation exercise to the region.
In the absence of regular patrols, China has continued to bolster its activities. China landed a plane on one of its artificial islands in the Spratly Islands archipelago in the most recent case Saturday.
For McCain, the Obama administration is “either unable to manage the complexities of interagency national security decision-making or simply too risk averse to do what is necessary to safeguard the rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific.”
After the plane landed, Department of State spokesman John Kirby said China’s movement “raises tensions and threatens regional stability.”
“We again call for all claimants to halt land reclamation and further development of new facilities and militarization on their outposts and instead focus on reaching agreement on acceptable behavior in disputed areas,” Kirby added.
Kirby did not mention anything regarding a follow-up exercise.
Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift also brushed off concerns about a dwindling force by pointing to the fact that better technology negates the need for numbers.
“It’s this sense of angst that I hear from those in the region, driven by the uncertainty and the rhetoric and, you know, the challenges that the region is facing right now,” Swift told The Associated Press. “But I’m very comfortable with the resources I have.”
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