2016-02-25 17:53:00

US urges Southeast Asian nations to defuse tension over South China Sea

(Vatican Radio) There's been claim and counter-claim this week between the United States and China over who is militarising the South China Sea. 

Alastair Wanklyn takes a look at recent developments.


Days after American fighter jets put on a show of force aimed at North Korea, China did the same for for the U.S., landing fighter planes on a disputed island.

The U.S. Pacific commander told lawmakers in Washington...

"China is clearly militarising the South China Sea, and you'd have to believe in a flat earth to believe otherwise" U.S. Admiral Harry Harris said.

Speaking at a summit of Southeast Asian nations, U.S. President Barack Obama called for efforts to defuse tensions in a sea where six nations have competing territorial claims:

"We discussed the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions, including a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarisation of disputed areas." 

The U.S. says it takes no side in the disputes, but wants the South China Sea to remain open to commercial shipping. It has sailed warships on at least two occasions within waters that China claims.

On Tuesday, China's foreign minister said if demilitarisation is to take place, all sides need to do it. He said Beijing does not want to see foreign bombers approaching its islands. 

Satellite images appear to show China is setting up anti-aircraft radar and rockets in the area, potentially shifting the balance.

And on Thursday, Australia announced a massive increase in defence spending. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that is needed because of growing tensions in the region, including in the South China Sea.

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