Top US military official in Pacific says China changing facts, creates false sovereignty

The Commander of United States Pacific Command Admiral Harry B. Harris reiterates US call to immediately halt land reclamation in West Philippine Sea. “These activities are harming the environment and will not strengthen any country’s legal claims to disputed areas in the South China Sea,” the top American military officer in the Pacific said at ASPEN Security Forum in Colorado, USA July 23.

“The South China Sea is front and center in the tug-of-war between the majority of regional nations that want to maintain the status quo and China that wants to change it to suit its narrow self-interest,” he said.

Admiral Harris said China is changing facts on the ground which essentially creates false sovereignty by building man-made islands on top of coral reefs, rocks, and shoals. “In doing so, China’s actions are destroying the surrounding underwater environment.”

“Most countries choose to pursue diplomatic means to address their disputes. China, on the other hand, is changing the status quo in the region through aggressive coercive island building without meaningful diplomatic efforts toward dispute resolution or arbitration,” the admiral said.

The military official also called on China to use the mechanisms of international dispute resolution in good faith, and to abide by those decisions as so many of its regional neighbors have already done.

“It is China’s actions that are inducing its South China Sea neighbors to build stronger relationships with each other and the U.S., driven not by a sudden U.S. effort to increase stability and security within the region, but by China’s conspicuous failure to do the same,” Harris said.

Admiral Harris served as the Commander of US Pacific Fleet from October 2013 and in May this year he he assumed command of the US Pacific Command.