China Challenges Obama’s Asia Pivot With Rapid Military Buildup

“There are growing concerns about what China is up to in the maritime space,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There’s a widely held view in the region that the U.S.-China relationship is tipping toward being much more confrontational.”

Obama arrives today in Japan, the start of a weeklong [sic] journey that also will take him to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. On display throughout will be the challenge of managing the uneasy relationship with China, the U.S.’s No. 2 trading partner and an emerging rival for global influence.

‘Aggressive Growth’

Danny Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, in February labeled China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea, hundreds of miles from its shoreline, as “inconsistent with international law.”

Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told an Australian audience on April 9: “I am concerned by the aggressive growth of the Chinese military, their lack of transparency, and a pattern of increasingly assertive behavior in the region.”

The statements signaled mounting U.S. alarm following China’s establishment in November of an “air defense identification zone” in the East China Sea, which overlapped with Japanese and South Korean airspace.

China’s growing strength in recent years has spawned a welter of territorial conflicts. The most serious involve uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which Japan controls as the Senkakus and China calls Diaoyu.

Modern Vessels

China is replacing older ships with modern vessels capable of more ambitious operations, the U.S. Navy’s top China intelligence specialist told the U.S-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Jan. 30.

The U.S. Navy now regards about 65 percent of China’s destroyers and frigates as “modern” and expects that figure to increase to 85 percent by 2020, said Jesse Karotkin, senior intelligence officer for China in the Office of Naval Intelligence.

 

Full article: China Challenges Obama’s Asia Pivot With Rapid Military Buildup (Bloomberg)

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