US sees Chinese military activity up in S. China Sea

By BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE • The US has observed a rise in Chinese military activity in the South China Sea area over the last year, according to the top American military officer in the region.

Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, declined to quantify the increased activity — nor would he say whether the number of US freedom of navigation patrols would increase or remain stable.

He did, however, underscore the American resolve to remain engaged, describing the US as an “enduring Pacific power”.

“It’s building, it’s not reducing in any sense of the word,” Davidson told reporters yesterday in Singapore when asked about China’s military activities in the South China Sea.

“There has been more activity with ships, fighters and bombers over the last year than in previous years, absolutely.”

“It’s a hazard to trade flows, the commercial activity, the financial information that flows on cables under the South China Sea, writ large,” Davidson added.

China has targeted a 7.5% increase in defence spending in 2019, a slowdown from last year’s projected 8.1% increase though still seen as consistent with President Xi Jinping’s plans to grow and advance the military.

Davidson said he sees no sign of a slowdown in China’s defence capabilities, despite the reduced growth trajectory. More spending, he said, was still an increase. — Bloomberg