The top admiral in charge of U.S. military operations in Asia says Washington should drop its remaining restrictions on weapons sales to Vietnam in order to better defend against China’s military buildup in the South China Sea.
Navy Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the head of U.S. Pacific Command, told lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that they’d have to believe the world was flat to think Beijing is not trying to militarily dominate the region.
“I believe China seeks hegemony in East Asia — simple as that,” he said in remarks likely to further inflame tensions that have risen between Washington and Beijing during recent days.
The two powers have traded rhetorical barbs since last week when reports emerged that Beijing had deployed anti-aircraft missiles on the Paracels Islands chain. The chain has been under Chinese control for decades but is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.
On Monday, the Center for Strategic International Studies, a Washingtonthink-tank, reported that China has also built new radar facilities in the Spratly Islands, another disputed chain further south than the Paracels in the South China Sea.
Some analysts have argued that Beijing is engaged in a yearslong strategy known as “salami-slicing” — effectively conducting a steady stream of small military actions that when compiled over time will amount to a major reorganization of the military power structure in the region.
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