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Tuesday, December 15, 2015, 10:22

US commander warns of arms race in South China Sea

By Reuters
US commander warns of arms race in South China Sea
US Navy Admiral Scott Swift addresses the various officials and guest from the City & County of Honolulu, the City of Nagaoka, Japan, Honolulu's sister city, to commemorate 70 Years of Peace on Ford Island located in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, on Aug 14, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / EUGENE TANNER)

TOKYO - The US Pacific Fleet Commander has warned of a possible arms race in the disputed South China Sea which could engulf the region, as nations become increasingly tempted to use military force to settle territorial spats instead of international law.

Commander Admiral Scott Swift urged nations to seek arbitration to settle maritime disputes.

"My concern is that after many decades of peace and prosperity, we may be seeing the leading edge of a return of "might makes it right" to the region," Swift said on Monday in a speech in Hawaii, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

By resorting to military strength to impose territorial claims, nations, risked sparking a military arms race that could engulf the region, he said.

"Claimants and non-claimants alike are transferring larger shares of national wealth to develop more capable naval forces beyond what is needed merely for self defense," Swift said.

"Even now, ships and aircraft operating nearby these features, in accordance with international law are subject to superfluous warnings that threaten routine and commercial operations," Swift said, speaking at the Cooperative Strategy Forum to naval commanders from Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries.

China has territorial claims to most of South China Sea, through which more than US$5 trillion of world trade ships every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan also claim parts of the South China Sea.

"The Arbitration Tribunal's case between the Philippines and China could become the latest opportunity to demonstrate lawful access to regional prosperity for all nations," Swift said.

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