Tension in the highly-contested South China Sea has become much more intense as the US has joined in, urging other nations, including Australia, to also protest China’s claim of the entire area. The move comes as China is said to have deployed its powerful radar in the disputed islands. With these facilities, China can monitor both surface and air activities in the region.
Although the US and the Australia are miles away from the contested sea, the two countries will be largely affected once China takes an exclusive claim of the disputed area. The South China Sea plays a vital role in the navigation in the Pacific region. Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, of the US Navy, in a report published by Reuters, said other nations other than those with existing claims to the area should partake in their quest for ‘freedom for navigation’ within 12 nautical miles surrounding the area.
According to a report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, the newly deployed radars from China could drastically boost its operational authority in the South China Sea. With these newly built high-frequency radar facilities, China would have “effective control over the sea and the airspace” throughout the disputed region, the report stated.
The nations with on-going claims to the South China Sea include Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Each country has its own local name for the entire South China Sea. In the Philippines, part of the sea, which the country claims is called West Philippine Sea by the Filipinos.
Over the past months, the US military, in cooperation with other nations with existing claims to the area has been conducting air patrol around the region. The move angered the Chinese government. Despite the vocal opposition of the US and other nations against China’s claims to most of the South China Sea, the latter remained unfazed and continued building airstrip and structures on some of the islands within the disputed territory.
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Minister slammed the US’ meddling with the current issue in South China Sea dispute, saying the US has no interest and not a party on the claim. “The U.S. is not involved in the South China Sea dispute, and this is not and should not become a problem between China and the United States,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was quoted as saying in a separate report by the Reuters.