US commander: China seeking control of East Asia

AP News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2016 10:44 AM
US commander: China seeking control of East Asia

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on tensions between the U.S. and China (all times local):

10:40 a.m.

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific says China is seeking control of East Asia.

Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., was responding to a question at a congressional hearing Tuesday about what is the strategic goal of China's military build-up in the region.

Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "I believe China seeks hegemony in East Asia."

His comments are likely to anger Beijing, whose top diplomat is due to meet with Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington later Tuesday.

China denies it has aggressive intentions. It says its construction in the disputed South China Sea is to install defensive measures and civilian facilities on islands it has sovereignty over and this will benefit the international community.

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10:25 a.m.

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific says China's construction and military facilities are changing the operational landscape in the disputed South China Sea.

Adm. Harry Harris, Jr., cited its deployment of anti-aircraft missiles in the Paracel island chain, new radar and airstrips on land features it has built up in the Spratlys.

Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that China is militarizing the South China Sea, "and you have to believe in a flat earth to think otherwise."

China on Tuesday reasserted its right to develop its island outposts, saying it has undisputed sovereignty over the area, where five other Asian nations have competing territorial claims.

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9:55 a.m.

Republican Sen. John McCain says China is behaving like a "bully" in the Asia-Pacific.

McCain says the Obama administration's "risk aversion" has failed to prevent China's coercive behavior in the disputed South China Sea. He is calling for the U.S. to step up freedom of navigation operations in the region.

McCain was speaking at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that he chairs. The committee was taking testimony from the commanders of U.S. forces in the Pacific and Korea.

Top-ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Jack Reed, also said it seems clear that China does not intend to be a "responsible stakeholder" in the region.

Both lawmakers cited think tank reports that China has deployed high-frequency radar on reclaimed land in the Spratly island chain.

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4:12 a.m.

The top U.S. and Chinese diplomats meet Tuesday in Washington at a fraught time in relations between the two world powers.

It's been seven weeks since North Korea's conducted a nuclear test and they still haven't agreed on how to censure Pyongyang.

Also, tensions are rising in the South China Sea after Beijing deployed anti-aircraft missiles on a disputed island.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (WAHNG YEE) sparred over much of the same territory a month ago in Beijing. But as they sit down for more talks at the State Department, both situations have only grown more serious.