As China Seeks to Dominate the South China Sea, We Will Continue to Stand By Our Allies, Ros-Lehtinen Says

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement today at a Full Committee hearing titled “Beijing as an Emerging Power in the South China Sea.” The Committee received testimony from expert witnesses on China’s aggressive policies in the South China Sea.  Ros-Lehtinen also called for the continued support for our allies in the region and to protect our vital national interests. Opening statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
 
“While the world’s attention was turned to other crises, including Iran’s nuclear program and concerns over the faltering Euro, China has upped the ante, playing the role of a schoolyard bully towards its maritime neighbors.  From one end to the other of the South China Sea, Beijing has increased both in belligerence and bellicosity.  Even Chinese government officials, press, and bloggers incited anti-Japanese feelings to such a fever pitch that there were anti-Japanese riots in Chinese cities just last month.
 
“Well, I have news for the bullies in Beijing:  the United States stands by our friends and allies in the Philippines and Japan.  The United States Navy will continue to preserve the peace in Pacific waters, including the South China Sea, as it has done since the end of the Second World War.  Beijing also apparently looked with trepidation on the Secretary of State’s visit to the Cook Islands to attend a Pacific Islands conference before her stop in Beijing.
 
“Beijing has hoped, since 2005, to entice our Pacific allies away through a honey pot of six hundred million dollars in economic assistance and low-interest loans.  Our Greatest Generation, however, did not fight its way from island to island across the Pacific, from Midway to Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima, only to see their descendents pushed back across the Pacific by a flood of Chinese cash.
 
“Why are the South China Sea and other littoral waters so central to the Chinese communist mandarins’ aspirations to re-establish the Middle Kingdom as the dominant power in Asia?  Well these are the waterways which control the trade and commerce for some of the most dynamic economies in the world, located in both Southeast and Northeast Asia.  These are the sea lanes through which vast amounts of fossil fuel are shipped, which energize the economies of Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
 
“Whoever controls these sea lanes can dominate Asia – and beyond -- by choking off that commerce and oil shipments to the major stakeholders in the Asian economic miracle.  China, traditionally a land power, as symbolized by its Great Wall land barrier, has only recently turned its eyes to the seas.  This emerging Chinese sea power was originally directed toward eventual domination of Taiwan by a potential naval blockade.
 
“The rumored name of Beijing’s fist aircraft carrier is to be that of a Chinese admiral who led a sea invasion of Taiwan over three centuries ago.  But Beijing’s ambitions for a blue water navy now extend far beyond the Taiwan Strait.  China has forward deployed its sea power in the resource-rich South China Sea, engaging in naval confrontation in 2009 with, not only the U.S. Naval Ship Impeccable, built in my home state of Florida, but more recently with the Philippines and Vietnam as well.  Beijing has adopted an equally aggressive stance toward America’s ally, Japan, in the East China Sea and has objected to U.S. naval cooperation in the Yellow Sea with our South Korean ally.
 
“Beijing seeks to dominate its maritime negotiations with its neighbors by picking them off one by one, rather than engaging in the Code of Conduct regarding the South China Sea.  Nationalistic young Chinese military officers also have reportedly been eagerly studying the century-old writings on sea power of an American Admiral.  Admiral Mahan’s theory, as discussed in Red Star Over the Pacific, written by one of our witnesses today, reportedly drew the connection between thriving commerce and naval supremacy.
 
“As the United States seeks to restore our citizens’ economic well being, commercial ties with the dynamic economies of East and Southeast Asia become paramount.  Beijing seeks domination of not only the South China Sea but also the western Pacific.  Therefore, the possibility of naval clashes steadily increases.  A situation where the escalating naval arms race takes place in order to control the ocean highways of global commerce is not in the interest of the people of the United States nor the people of Asia.
 
“Other global crises must not distract from our vital national interests in the South China Sea and the western Pacific.  We cannot be indifferent to the potential placement in harm’s way of our sailors and those of our allies, like the forty-six young South Korean sailors who perished at sea two years ago.  We should take a moment to honor the men and women in our armed forces who, since the days of Pearl Harbor, have served to maintain the peace in the Asia/Pacific region.  As the old naval hymn states: “Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea!”

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