Senate frowns on China's behavior

The Senate passed a bipartisan resolution late Thursday aimed at altering China's behavior toward U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region, members announced Friday.

“The United States is an Asia-Pacific nation and we have an abiding national security interest in the maintenance of regional stability, as recent events have demonstrated,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who co-sponsored the legislation.

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The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.), condemns "coercive and threatening actions or the use of force to impede freedom of operations in international airspace by military or civilian aircraft, to alter the status quo or to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region."

The bill comes after a surprise decision by China in December to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone around China, which would require other nations flying through the zone to announce flights to China ahead of time.

Pentagon officials opposed the move at the time, saying they did not receive advance notice.

The bill urges China to refrain from implementing the defense zone, which includes airspace over the East China Sea where several nations, including Japan and Taiwan, have competing territorial claims.

The legislation also urges all parties to refrain from "efforts to unlawfully assert administration over disputed claims."

Menendez's statement said there have been a series of "alarming developments" over territorial dispute in the region, that have created real tension and the potential for conflict "that could easily spill over into a broader regional conflict."

The bill also commends Japan and Korea — two U.S. defense treaty allies who opposed China's move — for their "restraint."

"Freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific region is what makes trade and peace possible, and this resolution reinforces the Senate's commitment to this goal,” Rubio said.

“As countries like China attempt to disrupt the region by violating international agreements and making illegitimate territorial claims, it's a key time for the U.S. government to remind our allies, partners in the region and the entire world that America is fully committed to continued peace and prosperity in Asia," he said.