- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2014

A top Chinese general says a Pentagon strategic plan is causing disarray in the Pacific region by enabling allies of the United States to make false allegations and overstep their boundaries.

Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, said at the Pentagon on Thursday that neighboring countries, like Japan and the Philippines, have been using the Pentagon’s Asia-Pacific Pivot strategy as an “opportunity” to stir up problems in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. The Obama administration announced the strategy in 2012, touting it as a means for securing bilateral alliances and expanding its military presence in that region of world.

Gen. Fang made the remarks during a joint press conference with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, noting that Japan has been flexing its diplomatic muscles in the face of a territorial dispute over a largely uninhabited islet, known as the Senkaku Islands, in the East China Sea.

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In a recent visit to the country, President Obama reaffirmed those territorial claims by stating that the mutual security treaty between the United States and Japan applied to the islands.

Gen. Fang said the territorial dispute over what is locally known as the “Diaoyutai Islands” have made the region “not as calm as before.”

Japan wanted to take the Diaoyutai Islands as Japan’s — this is something that we can never agree to,” he said.

The Philippines has also been trying to slide through the “window of strategic opportunity” by expanding its territorial claims, Gen. Fang said. Years ago, one of the country’s military ships became wedged on a reef in the South China Sea. Now, the Philippines government wants to turn that ship into a permanent facility.

“We see it as an attempt to take our reef and make it as a reef of the Philippines,” he said.

Reuters is reporting that officials in the Philippines believe China is trying to declare the reef as its own so that it can build an airstrip on it.

In light of the ongoing territorial disputes, the United States should try to maintain an objective view on rising tensions in the region, according to Gen. Fang.

Dean Cheng, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, said that since China has always been the dominant country in the Asia-Pacific region, it is hard for Chinese leaders to accept that smaller neighboring countries are pushing for more control and territory.

China believes that if the United States had not implemented its Asia-Pacific pivot plan, then “these countries would not oppose China on these issues.”

“His argument is that the pivot has given an incentive to local countries to be more obstinate in the face of China’s legitimate claims,” Mr. Cheng said.

Gen. Dempsey said the U.S. military would push toward establishing better communications with China’s military in the hopes of deepening cooperative efforts and understanding amid rising tensions.

Dialogue, not provocative actions, will foster progressive relationships in a global maritime environment that “is simply too large and too complex for any one nation,” he said.

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