A key Senate committee has called for continued US engagement in the Asia Pacific region to maintain its security and stability in wake of the increased Chinese aggressiveness and military buildup in the area. “Continued engagement by the US in the Asia-Pacific region is critical to maintaining security and stability in the region,” the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee said in its voluminous report to toe Senate sent along with the passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2018.
In addition to assessing current force posture and investing in hard power assets, Senate committee noted the importance of soft power tools, including independent academic institutions like Fulbright University Vietnam and others in the region.
These institutions are an important element of its Asia- Pacific strategy, and can help build the workforce and bolster the capabilities that its regional allies need—including in cyber defence and cyber-supportive information technology infrastructure and training—to counter ongoing security threats.
The Senate Armed Services Committee it its report noted that certain activities by China have recently called into question its commitment to the rule of law, and furthermore are continuing to destabilise the security of the region.
“Such actions directly threaten the national security interests of the US,” it said noting that a United Nations arbitral tribunal declared in July 2016 that China has no legal basis to claim rights to the resources within its nine- dash line, invalidating the assertions of the Chinese government.
The tribunal also went on to outline a number of actions that China had recently taken that were unlawful and created a serious risk of collision.
These actions are alarming to the committee, it said, adding that these concerns are only compounded by the fact that the United States has taken only limited actions or operations in the last several months to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.
“As the US has the unique capabilities to carry out such activities, the committee is concerned that the absence of such sends a signal to the Chinese government that their actions will go uncontested.
The committee urges the US government to play a vital role in securing the South China Sea and ensuring freedom of navigation,” it said.