Washington: China is challenging respect for international law, freedom of navigation and the peaceful resolution of disputes which is a cause of concern for many Asian countries, forcing them to reach out to the US, top American officials have said.
"There are certain aspects of Chinese behaviour that are very disturbing to us. They're deeply disturbing to countries in the region, which has them all coming to us and is having the effect of causing self-isolation by China," Defence Secretary Ashton Carter told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing. Carter has just returned from a trip to India and the Philippines.
"We are reacting ourselves and we're being increasingly invited to work with countries, long-standing allies and strong allies like the Philippines, and that's where the sites you see and correctly have on the map here come in, but also new partners like Vietnam. I was in India a week-and-a-half ago. Many of them concerned about Chinese behaviour," Carter said.
At another Congressional hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the US is intensely focused on maritime issues especially China's assertive and provocative behaviour in the South China Sea.
China is challenging respect for international law, freedom of navigation and the peaceful resolution of disputes, he alleged.
"We've also deepened our commitment to the US-Australia- Japan trilateral strategic dialogue, hosted the inaugural US-Japan-Indian trilateral ministerial dialogue," he said.
"These bilateral, trilateral and multilateral relationships are not aimed at any particular country. They are not exclusive. We welcome any kind of flexible geometry of collaboration among countries that share important goals including steps towards greater China- Korea-Japan cooperation and the growing unity of the ASEAN community," Blinken said.
At the same time, Blinken said the US is not looking for conflict with China in South China Sea.
"We're looking to prevent conflict. What's at stake here is not just the transit of oil, energy, goods, as important as — there are larger principles at stake. These principles go to the entire foundation of the international order. If we don't defend those principles everywhere where they're being challenged the entire order that we've invested so much in building over seven years is at risk," he said.
Blinken said there has been a significant buildup in China's military capacity over the last couple of decades, and in recent years.
"Some of that I guess on one level is not surprising. As China grows and is more engaged in the region it wants to protect those expanding interests, and what we've seen though are two things," he said.