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US Worried About China’s Shiny New Navy And Their ‘Great Wall Of Sand’

Admiral Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet, warned Tuesday that China is “creating a great wall of sand” in the South China Sea, a move which continues to stir concerns among U.S. military leaders of Chinese naval supremacy.

By great wall of sand, Harris referred to the practice of pumping large quantities of sand onto live coral reefs and then paving overtop with concrete. Using this method, China has created 1.5 square miles of artificial land, AP reports.

The Obama administration has been insistent in pressuring China to stop building islets, claiming that the act of building threatens to encroach against Vietnam and the Philippines. China already claims title to approximately 90 percent of the South China Sea.

In the midst of the tension, Admiral Wu Shengli of the Chinese Navy is interested in building greater ties with the U.S. military. Suspicion among U.S. leadership of ulterior motives remains at high levels.

“I would say that he doesn’t want to build a navy that’s equivalent to the U.S.,” retired U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “He wants to build a navy that surpasses the U.S.”

Shengli has played a strong role in expanding China’s naval reach. But Admiral Greenert and others think that closer engagement and education might prompt China to take international norms more seriously.

Last year, Shengli visited Harvard and inquired as to the possibility of enrolling some of his officers at the college. During that same trip, he joined a naval forum in Rhode Island discussed the prospect of increasing U.S.-China cooperation on global security.

However, just last month, the Pentagon declined a proposal from Shengli for a U.S. aircraft carrier to make a port stop in China for 2015. The proposal was protested by Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. John McCain, who suggested clearly in a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter that the request should be denied to discourage Chinese aggression.

“We believe that a formal policy and clearly articulated strategy to address these forms of Chinese coercion are essential,” McCain wrote.

In the meantime, China has expanded its navy fleet by leaps and bounds. U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy confirmed in late February that China has outmatched the U.S. in terms of its sheer number of diesel and nuclear-powered submarines.

While Navy Secretary Ray Mabus stated that quality matters over quantity, he did admit that quantity is a quality all on its own and further called for sequestration to be lifted, so that U.S. Navy readiness isn’t jeopardized. (RELATED: China Now Has More Submarines Than The US Navy)

The South China Sea is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world, meaning there’s plenty at stake for all parties involved. China plans to assert its sovereignty, and the U.S. will continue to insist that China follows the China-Asean Declaration of Conduct, which was established in 2002 as an effort to encourage “self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

 

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