Senators condemn China's construction on disputed islands

Senators condemn China's construction on disputed islands
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A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Thursday to condemn China for construction on islands claimed by several nations, and urged a solution to the territorial standoff.  

China has been aggressively constructing buildings and facilities on the Spratly Islands, in violation of international law, said Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). 

The senators called the development troubling, because the islands in the South China Sea are claimed by several other nations, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. 

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China's actions could undermine regional stability, they warned. 

“China’s effort to unilaterally redraw the region’s maritime borders exacerbates the risks of misperceptions, accidents, and conflict. Our bipartisan resolution makes clear that China needs to act responsibly,” said Schatz, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. 

McCain said for the past two years China has rapidly added more than 2,000 new acres of man-made features to bolster its claim to all of the South China Sea.  

"Despite its commitment to peacefully resolve its maritime territorial disputes with its neighbors, experts tell us Beijing is likely to add runways, ports, logistics facilities, and offensive military capabilities to these features in the year ahead," he said. 

Sullivan said he has "become increasingly concerned about the escalatory nature of the situation in the South China Sea." 

“As one the world’s key conduits of energy — nearly one-third of global crude oil and over half of global liquefied natural gas (LNG) passes through the South China Sea each year — it is imperative that this region remain peaceful and free of conflict," he said. 

The resolution comes as the U.S. looks to devote more resources and attention to the Asia-Pacific and as China continues to improve its military capabilities and more aggressively confront its neighbors over territorial disputes. 

The structures China is building on the islands could support airstrips for Chinese fighter jets and surveillance aircraft, which could increase the chances of a military conflict. 

"The United States has a national interest in the South China Sea. We will continue to work with our allies and partners throughout the region to deepen our relationships and our mutual commitment to uphold peace and stability in this critical maritime highway," McCain said. 

In a April, a U.S. Navy commander also raised alarm, saying that China was building a "great wall of sand" in the contested region.