May 30, 2019 11:46 UTC
  • US accuses China of broken promises on South China Sea militarization

The US military’s top general has called for “collective action” to stop what Washington insists is China’s militarization of the South China Sea, accusing Chinese President Xi Jinping of reneging on his promises to stop the practice.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that while he was not calling for military action, international laws were needed to ensure Xi’s government would refrain from deploying weapons to islands in the sea as he promised former US President Barack Obama.

"The fall of 2016, President Xi Jinping promised President Obama that they would not militarize the islands. So what we see today are 10,000-foot runways, ammunition storage facilities, routine deployment of missile defense capabilities, aviation capabilities, and so forth," he said in an address on US security and defense at the Brookings Institution.

"So clearly they have walked away from that commitment," he charged before proceeding to repeat Washington’s line in challenging Beijing’s sovereignty claims over most of the sea, including a series of reefs China has been expanding as its territory.

"The South China Sea is in my judgment not a pile of rocks," Dunford continued. "What is at stake in the South China Sea and elsewhere where there are territorial claims is the rule of law, international laws, norms and standards."

"When we ignore actions that are not in compliance with international rules, norms and standards, we have just set a new standard," he said.

"I'm not suggesting a military response," the top US general said. "What needs to happen ... is coherent collective action to those who violate international norms and standards. They need to be held accountable in some way so that future violations are deterred."

Beijing asserts its sovereignty over nearly all of the contested sea, which serves as a crossing for more $5 trillion worth of maritime trade annually.