US senator John McCain has called China a bully nation. McCain who is in Australia said “he believed China had been throwing its weight around too much thanks to its development as an economic powerhouse,” a report in The Australian said.
Saying that “the challenge is that China is acting more like a bully” in the Asia-Pacific region, McCain who was the Republican Party nominee in the 2008 US Presidential Election, pressed on the need for the US and Australia to work together “when dealing with economic and strategic issues involving China”, The Australian further wrote. McCain, who is the chairman of the important US Senate Armed Services Committee, is in Australia for security talks and his remarks on China was part of a speech he delivered yesterday. Australia responded to McCain calls saying it would continue to follow “freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight” in accordance with the international laws.
McCain slammed China for its stand on the South China dispute. According to another report in the ABC News, he “called for naval exercises in the South China Sea to challenge Beijing”. McCain said that nations could come together for a multilateral exercise under the US leadership to resist Chinese advances in the disputed territory. “If the Chinese are able to stop us exercising freedom of navigation then that has severe consequences for the whole region”, the report quoted him saying.
Territorial dispute in the South China Sea involves seven countries, i.e., China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. A busy trade route passes through it and all other countries except China are in favour of keeping its status as free, international waters. China wants to control it as it imports most of its oil through this trade route and has built artificial islands in the sea. Doing so would enable China to establish hegemony in East and Southeast Asia that no other country involved in the dispute is capable of. Also, it would keep foreign military forces like the US away from the region.
The US Navy has a sizeable presence in the South China Sea and it routinely carries out patrols in the area to deter the Chinese efforts maintaining that the South China Sea waters remain free for international navigation. China doesn’t recognize these claims including the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) that has invalidated the Chinese claims on the South China Sea and says China exercises control over these areas since ancient times and if there is any dispute it should be resolved by the countries directly concerned through bilateral discussions.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has compared Chinese acts in the South China Sea to the Russian aggression in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. On May 24, China saw the first direct challenge to its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea by the Trump Administration when USS Dewey, a US Navy destroyer, sailed close to an artificial island built by China. China reacted furiously saying it “warned and dispelled” the US Navy destroyer. With this US act, it has become clear that there has been no change in the US policy of “performing freedom of navigation operations” in the South China Sea as opposed to the claims that Trump Administration was deliberately going soft on China’s claims over the South China Sea to bargain trade deals with China and to get Chinese help in controlling North Korea.