US Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Michael Richardson, who just finished an official tour to Japan, India and Singapore, told the media on May 16 (local time) that the US would like Australian and Indonesian maritime forces to have a greater presence in disputed waters in the South China Sea. When asked whether Australia, Indonesia and other states in the region should conduct “freedom of navigation” operations to challenge China’s claim of sovereignty, he implied that those countries should take action to monitor the “superpower in the region”, meanwhile hypocritically saying “every nation is going to have to assess the situation and their own approach.” On May 15, during his visit to Singapore, the US Admiral said that he did not want the US Navy’s navigation movements in the South China Sea to draw more attention than they deserve from the media and Beijing.
According to US media reports, despite his position as the US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Richardson has no commanding right for the US Navy in wartime. During his visit to India this month, he met with Admiral Sunil Lanba, the Indian Navy Chief. In a statement, the Indian Navy said that Richardson’s visit aimed to strengthen relations between US and Indian navies. However, many Indian media deemed by mere coincidence that the purpose of his visit was to “persuade India to join in the US camp of suppressing China.”
Chinese military affairs expert Li Jie noted that the remarks made by Richardson indicated the US directly intends to destabilize the South China Sea and escalate the situation in the region. Through publicly and secretly inciting countries like Australia to intervene in the South China Sea issue, Washington aims to achieve its goal of the so-called “freedom of navigation.”
Liu Feng, a research fellow at Hainan Normal University (HNU), also pointed out that it is nothing new for high-ranking US military officers to make such remarks. The US tries to gang up its allies to make troubles in the South China Sea and escalate the situation in the region. However, he believes that Washington’s attempt to draw in Indonesia won’t work because as a major country in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is committed to becoming a maritime power and to some extent opposes external power’s interference in regional affairs concerning the South China Sea. Although the US can influence its “sidekick” ally Australia, the latter isn’t a country in the South China Sea region, so it cannot exert much impact. “Generally speaking, the US attempt to co-opt Australia to intervene in the South China Sea will be unlikely to make a splash,” Liu said.
Li pointed out that China needs to strengthen communication and exchange with countries around the South China Sea and those beyond the region to expose the plot of the US. It must be highlighted that China has never impeded the freedom of navigation of any country in the South China Sea, and at the same time resolutely opposes any attempt to stir up the situation of the region. Moreover, the South China Sea issue should be solved by parties concerned through consultation, and countries outside the region, including the US, have no right to intervene, nor should incite other countries to do so. Otherwise, such behaviors will only make the situation of the region more severe and complicated.
Disclaimer: This article is originally published on Global Times, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.