Concerned over China’s provocative actions in the disputed South China Sea, four top US Senators have introduced a legislation to enhance US maritime power in Asia Pacific region and provide more military aid to its American allies.
The Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative Act of 2016 authorises the Secretary of State to provide Foreign Military Financing assistance and International Military and Education Training activities in the Asia-Pacific for maritime security capacity building.
Introduced by Senators Ben Cardin, Cory Gardner, Robert Menendez and Brian Schatz, the bill authorises appropriations for the State Department’s Southeast Asia Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative; and upgrades the Philippines’ military procurement status to the same level that its closest allies enjoy under US law.
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The bill authorises the Secretary of Defense, in concurrence with the Secretary of State, to provide assistance for the purpose of increasing maritime security and domain awareness for countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Seeking to prioritise Asia-Pacific regional allies and maritime ASEAN member states for transfer of excess defense
articles: the act requires the administration to report on plans for freedom of navigation assertions, maritime security partner capacity building and China’s activities in the South China Sea.
“China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea, including its aggressive island-building campaign, threaten not just regional stability but long-standing US interests in the free-flow of commerce, freedom of navigation, and the peaceful resolution of disputes consistent with international law,” Cardin said.
“China’s ongoing reclamation activities and militarisation of the South China Sea threatens regional stability and represents a clear and fundamental challenge to the international law,” Gardner said. “The Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative Act codifies US policy that US military will routinely enforce freedom of navigation rights, will stand up for international law, and will provide its partners the resources and training they need to protect their maritime domains,” he said.
“For too long as China continues its aggressive and expansive policies, the US has played the role of observer, or perhaps protestor, but not yet actor,” Menendez said. “With this legislation, we offer this new way forward:
challenge the Government of China on its destabilising policies in the region, assert legal and rightful international authority over maritime boundaries, and send a signal to our friends and allies in the region that the international community – led by the US – will no longer tolerate China’s efforts to militarise its foreign policy,” he said.
China’s ongoing actions to unilaterally redraw the region’s maritime borders exacerbates the risks of misperceptions and conflict,” Schatz said.