Date: April 11, 2016
Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, reportedly wants a more robust approach to China, including more assertive freedom-
of-navigation operations such as helicopter flights and intelligence-gathering within 12 miles (19 kilometers) of Chinese-controlled features.
So far, U.S. Navy ships have twice sailed close to Chinese-controlled islands. However, critics say those maneuvers amounted to innocent passage, during which foreign vessels do not stop or carry out activities that might be perceived as hostile.
The Navy Times quoted defense officials as saying the White House is discouraging strong rhetoric by military leaders on the South China Sea. It reported that National Security Adviser Susan Rice on March 18 imposed a gag order on military leaders over South China Sea comments in the run-up to the nuclear summit in Washington that ended April 1.
“The White House’s aversion to risk has resulted in an indecisive policy that has failed to deter China’s pursuit of maritime hegemony while confusing and alarming our regional allies and partners,” Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
Harris declined to comment on the report, according to the Navy Times.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking in Washington, said that Beijing respects freedom of navigation and overflight but will defend its sovereignty in the South China Sea. Xi said China won’t accept any act disguised as freedom of navigation that violates its security. [FULL STORY]