If it were up to Admiral Harry Harris, U.S. response to China’s aggressive island building just 140 miles from Manila, Philippines will be as equally aggressive. However, he is encountering the biggest obstacle in the form of the White House.
Recent evidence has shown that China is now building another island on top of Scarborough Shoal, which is just 140 miles off the coast of Manila and within the Philippines’ 200-mile economic exclusion zone. In the light of this developing situation, U.S. allies such as the Philippines and Japan may already be feeling abandoned.
“The status quo is clearly being changed. Militarization at Scarborough Shoal would give [China’s People’s Liberation Army-Navy] the ability to hold Subic Bay, Manila Bay, and the Luzon Strait at risk with coastal defense cruise missiles or track aviation assets moving in or out of the northern Philippines,” a source who has spoken with the Navy Times revealed.
If it were up to Admiral Harris, there would be some aircraft launched and military operations within 12 miles of the disputed man-made islands by now. “He wants to do real [freedom of navigation operations]. He wants to drive through an area and do military operations,” Brayn Clark, a former senior aide to Admiral Jon Greenert told Navy Times.
However, the Obama administration and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, wants Admiral Harris and military leaders to do nothing in the meantime. In fact, notes from the National Security Council meeting on March 18 stated Rice’s request for gag order on military leaders to avoid making public comments on China’s recent actions in the South China Sea.
The relationship between the U.S. and China is very important to President Barack Obama and his administration. Recently, the two countries have come out with a joint statement regarding their agreement to work together in “reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism and striving for a more inclusive, coordinated, sustainable and robust global nuclear security architecture.”
At the same time, the White House also announced that the U.S. and China have come into an agreement to fight climate change by building more “green, low carbon and climate-resilient economies.” Furthermore, President Obama and China President Xi Jinping have said that they shall be in Paris on this year’s Earth Day, April 22, to sign the Paris Agreement that will further lay groundwork to effectively combat climate change. This is significant as the two countries currently account for 40 percent of the global emissions, making them the two largest polluters in the world.