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Tillerson Signals Willingness to Use US Military Force against China in South China Sea

By | Jan 12, 2017 03:26 AM EST
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Ready for war

Rex Tillerson at the U.S. Senate. (Photo : Getty Images)

Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump's pick for U.S. Secretary of State, had indicated he's in favor of using military force to evict China from the man-made islands it's built in the disputed South China Sea.

A former CEO of American oil giant ExxonMobil, Tillerson made these remarks during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Jan. 11. His statements are the first time a U.S. administration has indicated its readiness to use military force to stop China's relentless "sea grab" in the South China Sea.

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His predecessor, John Kerry, consistently tried to reason with China to stop its island construction and militarization of these islands but to no avail. The effete Barack Obama consistently refused to take tougher action against China to defend his pledge not to ignite any war during his watch.

China is currently speeding-up the militarization of the islands it's reclaimed. It's poised to deploy over the next few months modern surface-to-air missile systems on the most strategically important of these islands.

China has reclaimed over 3,000 acres of land in the Spratly Islands since 2014. It's transformed reefs and sandbars into man-made islands equipped with military airfields, radar stations and anti-aircraft sites.

On July 12, 2016, the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague declared illegal China's claim to own most of the South China Sea based on its alleged "historic rights." China has refused to accept the court's judgment and stands in violation of it to this day.

"We're going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also not going to be allowed," he said.

The statement implies the use of military force to enforce it.

Tillerson also saw China's activity in the South China Sea as "extremely worrisome."

He compared China's territorial claims over the South China Sea to Russia's military annexation of the Crimea, which belong to Ukraine, in March 2014.

"Building islands and then putting military assets on those islands is akin to Russia's taking of Crimea. It's taking of territory that others lay claim to," Tillerson pointed out.

Tillerson noted the Obama administration neglected to tackle the problem. He said the "failure of a response has allowed them (China) to just keep pushing the envelope on this."

Tillerson's testimony, plus Trump's known hostility towards China, apparently makes it clear the Trump administration will do more than talk tough to China.

Tillerson also took a dig at Obama's proclivity for inaction and penchant for being outmaneuvered by the Russians.

"I think a lot of our troubles today are that we do not enforce -- we make commitments, we say we are going to do something and then we don't enforce it," said Tillerson.

China's first response to Tillerson's tougher rhetoric was surprisingly muted. It again repeated the worn line the U.S. should stay out of the dispute in the South China Sea and leave it all to China. 


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