Pentagon: US military has a lot of experience ‘taking down small islands’ in Pacific

The Pentagon on Thursday said it would continue to seek China’s cooperation on North Korea, but made clear it could devastate Beijing’s assets should provocations in the South China Sea arise.

“We continue to seek areas to cooperate with China where we can, but where we can’t we’re prepared to certainly protect both U.S. and allied interest in the region,” Director of the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters at the Pentagon.

“I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands,” McKenzie said, when asked if the United States has the ability to “blow apart” one of China’s disputed, man-made islands in the South China Sea.

He later clarified that he was referring to U.S. military operations during World War II.

“It’s just a fact we had a lot of experience in the Second World War taking down small islands that are isolated, so that’s a core competency of the U.S. military that we’ve done before. [You] shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact,” he said.

U.S. warships on Sunday cruised by disputed islands in the South China Sea in a planned exercise. The United States claims the area is considered international waters, while China asserts its right to the islands and saw the move as a threat.

The move heightened tensions between the two countries, even as the Trump administration has sought China’s help in pursuing negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program.

McKenzie asserted that the U.S. military will “continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations as allowed by international law. And we’re going to continue to do the things that we’re doing.”

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