U.S. pledges security aid in Asian seas; Kerry chides China
HANOI, Vietnam — Secretary of State John Kerry offered harsh words for China and new maritime security assistance for Southeast Asia on Monday to bolster countries facing growing Chinese assertiveness in a region where the two world powers are jockeying for influence.
Tensions are running high since a near-collision of U.S. and Chinese naval vessels this month and an air defense zone China has declared over an area that includes territory controlled by Japan, an American ally. Those actions have raised fresh alarm as Beijing modernizes its military and claims a wide swath of ocean and disputed islands across the East and South China seas.
Kerry used his first visit to Vietnam as America's top diplomat to reiterate support for diplomacy between Southeast Asia's regional bloc and Beijing over the territorial disputes, and to provide aid for Southeast Asian nations to defend waters they claim as their own.
Kerry pledged $32.5 million, including up to $18 million for Vietnam that will include five fast patrol boats for its Coast Guard. With the new contribution, U.S. maritime security assistance to the region will exceed $156 million over the next two years, he said.
“Peace and stability in the South China Sea is a top priority for us and for countries in the region,” Kerry told reporters at a news conference with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh. “We are very concerned by and strongly opposed to coercive and aggressive tactics to advance territorial claims.”
The next stop on his Asian trip will be the Philippines, which lost control of a disputed reef in the South China Sea last year after a standoff with China. The United States is helping equip the Philippines with ships and radar, and is in negotiations with Manila to increase the American military presence.
Kerry said the assistance was not a “quickly conceived reaction to any events in the region” but rather a “gradual and deliberate expansion” of support as part of the Obama administration's broader decision to refocus attention on the Asia-Pacific.
But the step is almost certain to anger Beijing, which bristles at what it sees as American interference in areas it views as China's “core interest.” Beijing looks dimly on Washington's push to increase the military presence and strengthen its alliances in Asia as it ends a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, calling it an attempt to contain China.
In a reminder of the high stakes in play, U.S. and Chinese naval vessels came close to colliding in the South China Sea on Dec. 5, the most serious incident between the two navies since 2009.
The Pacific Fleet said on Saturday that USS Cowpens was operating in international waters and had to maneuver to avoid hitting China's lone aircraft carrier. The Liaoning, a symbol of China's ambition to develop a navy that operates farther from its own shores, entered service just last year and was on its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea.
Beijing has not formally commented on the incident, but the state-run Global Times newspaper reported on Monday that the U.S. ship had first harassed the Liaoning and its group of support ships, getting too close to a Chinese naval drill and entering within 30 miles of the Chinese fleet's “inner defense layer.”
As China expands its navy's reach and starts to challenge decades of American military predominance in the region, it's becoming more common for vessels of the two nations to operate in close proximity. The Obama administration has made it a priority to seek closer military cooperation with China to prevent misunderstandings that could spark a clash — part of a broader push to foster friendly ties between the established world power and the emerging one.
Beijing's unilateral declaration in late November of its East China Sea air defense identification zone was a setback, and has ratcheted up tensions with Japan over disputed islands within that zone.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 100 tons of supplies to fight Ebola sent to West Africa
- Thousands march in Moscow against Ukraine fighting
- Pakistan eyeing sea-based and short-range nuclear weapons, analysts say
- Unity agreement eases Afghanistan’s political crisis
- Libyan clashes could endanger oil exports
- Yemen signs peace deal with Shiite rebels
- EGYPT Roadside bomb kills 2 …
- Turkish hostages freed from Islamic State, but questions linger
- Egyptian President al-Sisi feels vindicated in crackdown as Islamic extremists rise
- Scottish teens surprise in independence vote
- Islamic State link with well-heeled companies or individuals targeted