China has lashed out at reports that the Pentagon may consider sending military aircraft and ships to the South China Sea, but opinions differ in the U.S. over what role America should play in the murky dispute.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter reportedly is requesting options that include sending Navy vessels and aircraft within 12 nautical miles of coral reefs that China has been building up in the disputed Spratly Islands.
The aim would be to ensure navigational freedom in a region where several Southeast Asian countries are jockeying for position.
“We are severely concerned about relevant remarks made by the American side,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday, even though no decision had been made by the U.S.
Beijing claims sovereignty over more than 90 percent of the energy-rich South China Sea, encompassing vital routes through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines also claim the South China Sea as their territory, in whole or in part.