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US Must Do More In South China Sea, Urges Sen. McCain

By Sydney J. Freedberg

…To date, however, the US has avoided such direct challenges. Indeed, argued Bryan Clark of the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments, the American approach has been remarkably indirect. “The US can be seen as playing a ‘long game’ in which it improves relations with and its military posture in countries on China’s Southeast Asian periphery and to reduce China’s influence, while in the near term giving in on China’s efforts in the South China Sea proper,” Clark said in an email (emphasis added). What has this tack achieved since the last Shangri-La? The Philippines has hosted Air Force A-10 attack planes. Singapore is hosting Navy P-8 patrol aircraft. Vietnam agreed to host a US Army stockpile of humanitarian supplies, and the US lifted restrictions on arms sales to Hanoi. All this “goes along with this idea of not contesting the South China Sea islands directly, but instead building more lasting relations and military posture along the periphery,” Clark said. “If properly equipped, forces in Vietnam and the Philippines could hold China’s island facilities at risk and negate some of the advantage they provide China.” “That may work,” Clark continued, “but only if the increasing Chinese militarization of the South China Sea does not in the end convince its neighbors that the US will not be able to support them militarily….. Eventually, the U.S. will have to contest China’s effort to make the South China Sea a ‘Chinese lake.'”

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