US navy commander says China pushing territorial claims below cowl of coronavirus

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There has been a surge of exercise by China within the South China Sea with navy ships, coast guard vessels and a naval militia of fishing boats in harassing vessels in waters claimed by Beijing, mentioned Lieutenant General Kevin Schneider.

An aerial view of China occupied Subi Reef at Spratly Islands in disputed South China Sea April 21, 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

China is utilizing the coronavirus as a canopy to push territorial claims within the South China Sea by way of a surge in naval exercise meant to intimidate different international locations that declare the waters, the commander of US Forces in Japan mentioned on Friday.

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There has been a surge of exercise by China within the South China Sea with navy ships, coast guard vessels and a naval militia of fishing boats in harassing vessels in waters claimed by Beijing, mentioned Lieutenant General Kevin Schneider.

“Through the course of the COVID disaster we noticed a surge of maritime exercise,” he advised Reuters in a telephone interview. He mentioned Beijing had additionally elevated its exercise within the East China Sea, the place it has a territorial dispute with Japan.

Beijing’s elevated stage of exercise would seemingly proceed, predicted Schneider: “I do not see troughs, I see plateaus,” he mentioned.

China says its maritime actions within the space are peaceable. The press workplace on the Chinese embassy in Tokyo was not instantly accessible to remark outdoors of regular enterprise hours.

Japan hosts the largest focus of U.S. forces in Asia, together with an plane provider strike group, an amphibious expeditionary power and fighter squadrons. In addition to defending Japan, they’re deployed to discourage China from increasing its affect within the area, together with within the South China Sea.

The newest U.S. criticism of China comes as relations have frayed amid accusations by Washington that Beijing did not warn it rapidly sufficient in regards to the coronavirus. China has dismissed that criticism as an try by President Donald Trump’s administration to cowl up its personal errors.

Beijing has constructed navy island bases on reefs within the energy-rich South China Sea, in or close to waters claimed by different international locations, together with the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. It imposed a unilateral fishing ban till Aug 16.

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