China’s naval harassments cannot be tolerated

That is why Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and I introduced a measure calling upon the Communist Chinese government to stop harassing ships on the high seas while sailing through the South China Sea. As highlighted in our resolution, China’s unacceptable acts include:

February 25, 2011: A Chinese frigate fires warning shots at three Filipino fishing boats near the Jackson Atoll near Palawan Island, Philippines.

March 2, 2011: Two Chinese maritime patrol vessels threaten to ram a Philippine government energy research vessel conducting a seismic survey in the Reed Bank area near Palawan Island.
May 2011: China announces a unilateral fishing ban for the northern part of the South China Sea from May to August.

May 2011: Vietnam alleges that Chinese naval vessels fired on four Vietnamese fishing vessels near East London Reef and Cross Island.

May 2011: Chinese vessels lay steel posts and a buoy in the Amy Douglas Bank, southwest of Reed Bank, within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zones.

May 11, 2011: Two unidentified fighter jets, alleged to be Chinese, are sighted near Palawan Island.

May 26, 2011: A maritime security vessel from China cuts the towed survey cables of an exploration ship from Vietnam, the BINH MINH, in the South China Sea in waters near Cam Ranh Bay. This use of force occurred within 200 nautical miles of Vietnam, in an area recognized by international law as its Exclusive Economic Zone.

June 9, 2011: Three vessels from China, including one fishing vessel and two maritime security vessels ran into and disabled the cables of another exploration ship from Vietnam, the Viking 2. The incident also occurred within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

Clearly, the number of incidents over the past 12 months has increased, as Beijing becomes more confident in violently asserting its claims to fishing and oil resources in the area. Commentators in the region uniformly believe that this “pattern of assertive behavior” by China is “another indication that the South China Sea dispute continues to trend in a negative direction.”

Seeing this negative trend, which threatens the freedom of navigation as well as the national security interests of the United States and its allies in the region, we introduced a Senate resolution. It is simple: Communist China, halt your aggressive behavior and return to the pledge you made in 2002 to resolve this dispute peacefully. 

I understand that the Chinese Embassy has been working hard to defeat this resolution or water it down, but facts are stubborn things. And the fact is that only the Communist Chinese have engaged in a set of violent and dangerous actions against its South China Sea neighbors. This must stop.

Our resolution puts their deplorable actions on record. It reaffirms our strong support for a peaceful resolution of this dispute while supporting the continuation of operations by the United States Armed Forces to assert and defend freedom of navigation rights in international waters and air space in the South China Sea. 

The Senate must act swiftly and decisively on this measure to signal our support for our allies and register our strong displeasure with China’s actions. In so doing, the Senate would be on record as supporting freedom and a peaceful resolution to the dispute. 

Senator James M. Inhofe, serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.  He is also a senior Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


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