A powerful Senate hawk One of the most powerful lawmakers top Republicans in Congress is warning that China may take use the next few weeks to make aggressive moves in the South China Sea in the next few weeks ahead of an international court ruling — and he’s calling for the U.S. Navy to stop them.
China is undermining international law and picking on its weaker neighbors, argues Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in a recent editorial.
"Over the past several years, China has acted less like a 'responsible stakeholder' in the rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific region and more like a bully," McCain wrote in an April 12 editorial in Financial Times.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands is expected to rule in June on a case brought against China’s claims in the South China Sea by the Philippines. China may try to take aggressive steps to begin building new islands or declareing part or all of the South China Sea an Air Defense Identification Zone, McCain warnedsaid.
An ADIZ is a zone of airspace claimed, controlled and enforced by a government. A 2013 ADIZ created by China over the Japanese-held Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has been largely condemned and ignored by the U.S. and its alliesfriends in the region.
McCain, a retired Navy captain who received the Silver Star for resisting his captors during the Vietnam war, former naval aviator is calling for a "freedom of the seas campaign" to counter China’s claims.
As part of the campaign, he is urging the U.S. to calling o US to sail its carrier strike group by Scarborough Shoal. This reef a South China Sea reef feature about 140 miles from the Philippines capital of Manila is a flashpoint in the South China Sea. whichseized by China seized it in 2012. If China opts to set up radars and missile batteries there, they could menace U.S. forces in the Philippines, strategists say.
"The administration should consider having its carrier strike group patrol the waters near Scarborough Shoal in a visible display of U.S. combat power," McCain wrote.
Sen. John McCain is calling for the U.S. Navy to patrol near China's man-made islands to try stem the island-building. The carrier John C. Stennis began its South China Sea patrol in late March and was visited by the U.S. defense secretary and the Philippines' secretary of national defense on April 15.
Photo Credit: MCSN Cole C. Pielop/Navy
Carrier John C. Stennis is currently operating in the South China Sea, and has been since the end of March, according to U.S. Pacific Fleet.
The campaign would also include stepped up freedom of navigation patrols around Chinese-claimed features and artificialman-made islands, as well as increasing the number of patrol days in the hotly contested sea. The administration should also move more naval, air and ground forces into the region and reaffirm its commitment to the Philippines mutual defense pact, McCain said.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Friday that troops and combat aircraft would be deploying to the Philippines as defense cooperation has been deepening between the two counties.