The Department of Defense released a statement Friday expressing concern about the People’s Republic of China (PRC) decision to conduct military exercises around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea July 1-5.
“The designated area where the exercises are due to take place encompass contested waters and territory,” the DoD said. “Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability. The PRC’s actions will further destabilize the situation in the South China Sea.”
“Such exercises also violate PRC commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability,” the Pentagon statement continued.
The military exercises are the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea. The PRC’s actions stand in contrast to its pledge to not militarize the South China Sea and the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms.
“The Department of Defense will continue to monitor the situation with the expectation that the PRC will reduce its militarization and coercion of its neighbors in the South China Sea,” said the DoD. “We urge all parties to exercise restraint and not undertake military activities that might aggravate disputes in the South China Sea.”