Senators Schatz, McCain, Sullivan Condemn China’s Construction on Spratly Islands and Urge Multilateral Resolution with All Claimants

Bipartisan Resolution Follows Reports that Defense Secretary Carter May Send Naval Ships and Aircrafts to the Region

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), and U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) introduced a resolution condemning China’s construction of artificial land formations on the Spratly Islands and calling for a peaceful and multilateral resolution to the South China Sea territorial dispute.

In recent years, China has aggressively constructed artificial islands in the South China Sea, violating customary and international law and a 2002 Code of Conduct which helps govern the region.  Administration officials have said that these artificial islands are expected to support airstrips that will allow China’s military to land fighter jets and surveillance aircraft, adding a military dimension to an already tense regional dispute.  With competing claims from five other nations, China’s provocative actions threaten to undermine regional stability.

“China’s effort to unilaterally redraw the region’s maritime borders exacerbates the risks of misperceptions, accidents, and conflict,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bipartisan resolution makes clear that China needs to act responsibly.  The United States is committed to promoting regional peace and stability, and protecting its interests and the interests of its partners and allies who have committed to addressing this dispute through a multilateral process.”

“I am proud to co-sponsor this bill with Senator Schatz and Senator Sullivan that condemns China’s aggressive effort to reclaim new territory in the South China Sea,” said Senator McCain.  “As we have heard in recent testimony from senior government officials, for the past two years China has rapidly added over 2,000 new acres of man-made features to bolster its claim to all of the South China Sea.  Despite its commitment to peacefully resolve its maritime territorial disputes with its neighbors, experts tell us Beijing is likely to add runways, ports, logistics facilities, and offensive military capabilities to these features in the year ahead. The United States has a national interest in the South China Sea. We will continue to work with our allies and partners throughout the region to deepen our relationships and our mutual commitment to uphold peace and stability in this critical maritime highway.”

“Over the past few months, I have become increasingly concerned about the escalatory nature of the situation in the South China Sea,” said Senator Sullivan.  “As one the world’s key conduits of energy – nearly one-third of global crude oil and over half of global liquefied natural gas (LNG) passes through the South China Sea each year – it is imperative that this region remain peaceful and free of conflict.  Today, I join my colleagues, Senator Schatz and Chairman McCain, in drawing additional attention to actions in the Spratly Islands, with the hope of ensuring continued stability in the South China Sea and the larger Asia-Pacific region.”

According to recent reports, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has begun considering sending U.S. Navy surveillance aircrafts and naval ships to the region to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.