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Far East: Tension rising in South China Sea - by Paul Koring

US President Barack Obama’s much-hyped “pivot” to the Pacific, supposedly shifting U.S. foreign policy and military focus away from the Middle East to face the emerging strategic challenges posed by China, has, so far, not amounted to much: a few hundred Marines stationed in Australia, ramped-up military exercises with the Philippines, more bombers deployed to Guam.

But in recent months, Mr. Obama has seemed willing to go beyond rhetoric and symbolism. He has rallied China’s regional rivals, reaffirmed the United States’ hard pledges to defend Pacific allies and started to paint some red lines in the seas Beijing regards as its own.

U.S. warships and aircraft may soon be crisscrossing the South China Sea, deliberately ignoring the 12-nautical-mile lines that could be claimed as territorial waters should Beijing attempt to assert full sovereignty over the islands it is creating from reefs and rocks, according to senior defence officials.
Predictably, Beijing has responded with its own tough talk.

“Freedom of navigation certainly does not mean that foreign military ships and aircraft can enter another country’s territorial waters or airspace at will,” Hua Chunying, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, said in response to reports that Defence Secretary Ash Carter had ordered up options for sending U.S. warships and aircraft into the area.

Read more: Tension rising in South China Sea - The Globe and Mail

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