Senators from United States are calling on its State and Defense departments with regards to “the alarming scope and pace of land reclamation now being conducted by People’s Republic of China in the Spratly island chain of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).” Senators John McCain, Bob Corker, Democrats Jack Reed and Bob Menendez said in a joint letter, dated March 19, to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and State Secretary John Kerry “without a comprehensive strategy for addressing” China’s assertion in sovereignty claims “long-standing interests of the United States, as well as our allies and partners, stand at considerable risk.”
The senators said “reclamation by any state to enhance their sovereignty rights in the South China Sea complicates these disputes and runs contrary to calls from the United States and Associating of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for parties to exercise self-restrain.” They noted while other states built on existing land masses, China made “qualitative change that appears designed to alter the status quo in the South China Sea.”
They added that US should maintain “a military balance in the region that secures our long-standing political and economic interests, upholds our treaty commitments, and safeguards freedom of navigation and commerce.”
Initial actions the senators want State and Defense departments to consider are to know the benefits of releasing intelligence more regularly on China’s destabilizing behavior, what forms of security cooperation can be discontinued if reclamation continues, what incentive can be provided if China changes behavior. They also want to know how to help partners in the region in terms of strengthening own capacity.
Senators McCain and Corker are chairmen of Senate Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, respectively. They added that US Congress stands ready to support renewed effort to address the rising challenge.