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South China Sea
U.S. Plans More Freedom of Navigation Operations

Testifying before Congress today, Admiral Harry Harris said that he is planning to do more to address China’s militarization of the South China Sea. Reuters:

The head of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command told a congressional committee on Wednesday he will carry out more freedom of navigation operations with more complexity in the South China Sea.

The news follows Beijing’s deployment of missiles to Woody Island in the Paracel island chain, and comes a day after analysis suggesting that a sophisticated radar system is under construction in the Spratly Islands. And yesterday, U.S. officials said that Beijing is continuing to fly fighter jets to the islands as well, according to the WSJ:

News of China’s latest deployment of fighter jets to Woody Island, part of the Paracel Islands chain, comes amid bilateral tensions over Beijing’s recent placement of air-defense missiles on the same island and while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was visiting Washington [. . .]

The recent fighter-jet deployment “is not a surprise and has been going on for the last few years,” said Capt. Darryn James, a spokesman for U.S. Pacific Command. “But it is still part of a disturbing trend of China’s militarization of the South China Sea.”

It certainly doesn’t seem like China is very worried about an American backlash against its recent or continuing militarization moves. Those new and improved freedom of navigation operations can’t come soon enough.

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