Pacific News Minute: Hawaii Hosts Chinese Navy Amid Tensions in the South China Sea
Three ships from the Chinese Navy are in Pearl Harbor this week on what's described as a routine port visit. That comes, as a senior naval officer made a speech in Honolulu this week on rising tension between the US and China in the South China Sea. More from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute.
In remarks to a regional security forum on Monday, the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet said that ships and aircraft are being forced to steer clear of artificial islands constructed by Chinese Engineers in the South China Sea. Admiral Scott Swift criticized what he described as unilateral assertiveness in the Spratley Islands where the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan all maintain claims and while China claims the entire area. While not mentioning China by name, Admiral Scott said that intimidation of fishing boats and warnings to divert ships and aircraft amount to a trend that was - his word - unacceptable.
As if to underline those remarks this week - the Chinese Navy warned a small private plane charted by the BBC not to approach three islands it's manufactured in the Spratleys. As the tiny Cessna approached Gaven, Fiery Cross and Mischief reefs - radio operators used identical warnings: “Unidentified military aircraft, this is the Chinese Navy, you are threatening the security of our station.” The BBC charter also encountered an Australian military patrol plane which notified the Chinese Navy by radio, of its intention to exercise freedom of navigation under international law. Last month, a US destroyer made headlines on a freedom of navigation patrol in the same area. It's interesting both that Australia followed suit and until it happened to meet a plane with reporters aboard - that it kept the operation under wraps.