Why the South China Sea Matters

Freedom of navigation is more than just an issue for the navies of seagoing nations. International trade and all the things that are consumed travel the oceans of the world. When one nation decides to create its own personal lake, it is time to take notice. The United States must be involved to insure freedom of the seas.

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Former CNO Roughead: Chinese Expansion in South China Sea Concerns Japan, U.S.

By: John Grady at The United States Naval Institute.

When looking to the future of U.S. and Japanese security “the importance of the periphery to China cannot be overstated,” a former U.S. chief of naval operations said.

Speaking Friday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, retired Adm. Gary Roughead, said Beijing views events in the South China Sea, for example, through a lens of historic slights when other nations exercised power and control and a region with major economic consequences for the mainland in terms of food, energy and trade.

As China has grown more powerful economically and militarily, he said when it looks at the South China Sea in a security dimension leaders in Beijing wants “to keep at a distance those capabilities that threaten them.”

Roughead’s points on how China views the South China Sea were voiced by a senior Chinese naval officer at an international conference in London last fall. As reported inDefense News, Vice Adm. Yuan Yubai said, “The South China Sea, as the name indicates, is a sea area that belongs to China. And the sea from the Han dynasty a long time ago where the Chinese people have been working and producing from the sea.” It is an assertiveness that Beijing began publicly expressing in 2010, CSIS seminar participants noted.

While Yuan said that safety of navigation was necessary in these waters, Roughead said Friday, “Our interpretations [of freedom and safety of navigation] are different,” as China continues to reclaim coral reefs and build ports, airfields and install surface-to-air missiles on these artificial islands.

In short, Beijing is trying to make those waters “an internal sea,” a point made several times during the discussion at the seminar on U.S.-Japan security.

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