|Desiree Sison |||May 14, 2016 09:17 AM EDT|
(Photo : Getty Images) In a recently released report, the Pentagon has accused China of using coercion and threats in the South China Sea region to assert its claim to almost the entirety of the disputed waters.
The Pentagon has accused China of using force and threats, and creating tension in the South China Sea region while expanding its maritime powers in the disputed waters and the East China Sea.
In its annual report to Congress released on Friday, the Pentagon said despite Beijing's growing assertiveness in its claim of almost the entirety of the South China Sea, Washington is still taking all the steps to avoid a military conflict between the two nations and between China and the claimant states.
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The US Department of Defense detailed China's island expansion in the disputed waters of the South China Sea and explained how Beijing is assertively pushing its sovereignty to the contested waters including the East China Sea.
The Pentagon report said that last year alone, Beijing deployed ships from the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the coast guard to the South China Sea to maintain a permanent presence there.
China likewise sent ships, planes, and maritime police ships to the East China Sea to patrol the waters near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands.
"China is using coercive tactics... to advance their interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict," the report stated.
Abraham Denmark, a high-ranking US defense official, said the Chinese coast guard and its fishing vessels often exhibit 'unprofessional actions' in the South China Sea region.
Denmark told reporters that these 'unprofessional actions' usually take place within proximity to foreign ships and other countries' fishing vessels in an attempt by Beijing to exercise control over the disputed territories.
"These activities are designed to stay below the threshold of conflict, but gradually demonstrate and assert claims that other countries dispute," he added.
Beijing is claiming over 90 percent of the disputed South China Sea in which $5 trillion worth of ship-borne trade passes through every year. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan all have competing claims.
The US has criticized China for its rapid expansion of islands and reefs through reclamation activities in the South China Sea to increase its influence in the disputed waters.
China has built several airstrips, outposts, and other facilities on the reclaimed islands. The US said this is apparently Beijing's way of militarizing the region.
The US has maintained that Beijing's claims in the South China Sea have no basis under international law, prompting Washington to conduct freedom of navigation patrols near China's newly built islands.
Political observers claim that Washington intends to establish a permanent presence in the international waterway to make sure that trade will not be impeded by China's activities in the disputed waters.
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