US Blames China For Rising Tensions In South China Sea [View all]
By Geoff Dyer in Washington
The Obama administration has significantly sharpened its rhetoric about China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea over the last week amid growing pressure from allies in the region for Washington to take a firmer line.
In public statements in recent days, senior US officials placed the blame for tensions in the region solely on China and warned that the US could move more forces to the western Pacific if Beijing were to declare a new air defence zone in the South China Sea.
Although President Barack Obama is due to visit the region in April, several Asia governments have complained privately that the administration has become distracted in the Middle East and has left the way open for China to pursue its claims with greater confidence.
“They are definitely trying to turn up the volume about China,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. “This is as close as the Obama administration has come to saying that the nine-dash line is illegal. It is quite significant because they previously danced around the issue.” The nine-dash line is a map produced by China which appears to claim that the bulk of the South China Sea is under Chinese control.
China is involved in a series of increasingly tense territorial disputes in the East China Sea with Japan and in the South China Sea with Vietnam and the Philippines. The US, along with several other governments in the region, believes that China is pushing these claims as part of a broader strategy to exert greater control over large areas of the western Pacific.