White House National Security Adviser John Bolton bluntly warned China this week that the U.S. military will not ignore threatening naval actions near U.S. warships in international waters.
Doubling down on the Trump administration’s tough policies toward China, Bolton also renewed criticism of Beijing for meddling in U.S. elections and stealing American technology.
Commenting on the harassment of the guided missile destroyer USS Decatur by Chinese warship that nearly caused a collision in the South China Sea recently, Bolton said the threatening maneuver was unacceptable.
Navy commanders have rules of engagement that allow them to defend their ships, he said.
“The commanders have the authority we need,” Bolton said in an interview with radio commentator Hugh Hewitt.
“We will not tolerate threats to American service members. We’re determined to keep international sea lanes open. This is something the Chinese need to understand. Their behavior has been unnecessarily provocative for far too long.”
The Navy said the Decatur was harassed by a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer on Sept. 30 near one of the Spratly islands. The Chinese ship conducted a series of aggressive maneuvers and sailed within 45 yards of the destroyer, forcing it to change course to avoid a collision.
In the South China Sea, China has built up some 3,200 acres of disputed islands and has begun deploying advanced missiles on the islands.
China claims the entire sea, which is used for an estimated $5 trillion annually in shipping trade, is Chinese territory.
The United States insists the waters are international waters. The U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected Chinese claims to own the sea through a vaguely defined “nine-dash line” extending through most of the waterway.
Bolton was asked if the United States should urge regional allies such as Philippines and Japan to counter the Chinese island-building and militarization by building their own armed islands.
“I think we’ve got to do more first to establish for the Chinese that we do not acknowledge the legitimacy of any of this,” Bolton said.
“The ship near collision you mentioned is an example of how dangerous Chinese behavior is,” he added. “We have now got more participation by allies, the British, the Australians, and others, are sailing with us through the South China Sea. We’re going to do a lot more on that.”
Bolton also said regional allies also could begin to mine undersea energy resources in the South China Sea “with or without Chinese cooperation.”
“They need to know they have not achieved a fait accompli here. This is not a Chinese province and will not be,” Bolton said.