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China Loudly Protests US Plan To Send Aircraft And Ships To South China Sea

A proposed U.S. military plan to flood disputed zones of the South China Sea with Navy ships and surveillance aircraft earned sharp rebuke from China Wednesday.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated that he is considering various options on the table in response to China’s aggressive behavior, including one in which the U.S. military maintains a presence near contested islands, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The upped presence would entail, at minimum, ships located approximately 12 miles from newly constructed reefs. In its current form, the plan remains at the proposal stage.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed that while China emphatically supports freedom of navigation, it’s unacceptable for the U.S. to deploy military ships and aircraft into territorial waters.

“Do you think we would support that move?” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in strong terms. “We are severely concerned about relevant remarks made by the American side. We believe the American side needs to make clarification on that.”

While China is upset at the possibility of a close U.S. presence, the Philippines, the Southeast Asian nation most opposed to China’s activities, is relieved. Unlike other, more skittish countries, the Philippines issued a bold statement.

“The Philippines believes that the U.S., as well as all responsible members of the international community, do have an interest and say in what is happening in the South China Sea,” said Charles Jose, spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister for the Philippines Albert del Rosario said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., that China’s “nine-dash-line,” which covers virtually all of the South China Sea, is unlawful.

The Department of Defense released a report last week detailing China’s tactics of low-level coercion in the South China Sea to intimidate its neighbors with rival claims of sovereignty. In response, China complained that that the U.S. is still stuck in a Cold War mentality. (RELATED: China Balks At Pentagon’s Report Warning Of Aggressive Behavior In South China Sea)

For various reasons, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter doesn’t appear convinced that Chinese naval activity is purely innocuous.

The report and proposals of U.S. involvement threaten to increase tensions in an already tense scenario. A total of six countries claim parts of the South China Sea, though China has clearly been most assertive and also claims that its construction of artificial islands is mostly to support local fishermen. Few observers trust China.

The U.S. has withheld judgment on claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea but retains a strong interest in ensuing activities and negotiations because trade routes in the area generate approximately $5 trillion dollars a year.

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