China's moves to claim new territory in the South China Sea are driving up demand for US heavy weapons and military aircraft from Chinese neighbors, says a former Pentagon official.
Washington accuses Beijing of undergoing a massive “land reclamation” program in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea, and says China’s territorial claims of the man-made islands could further militarize the region.
China’s claims over the disputed sea have forced its neighbors and other claimants into a defensive posture, former US Defense Department official Dov Zakheim said.
“China’s creation of ‘facts on the sea’ in the South China Sea worries all those who also have claims to various areas of the sea, and clearly are a motive behind their arms purchases,” he told Sputnik, a Russian news service.
Earlier in June, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called on China to put a “lasting halt” on construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea and “cease further militarization” of the region.
The US does not recognize China’s sovereignty in the disputed areas and is weighing sending more surveillance aircraft and warships to test its territorial claims. It fears China will use the territory as a military base to control navigation in the sea
China insists it has sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea and accuses Washington of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the region.
Allegations of cyber espionage have further strained US relations with China.
US officials have said China was behind a massive digital siege on the Office of Personnel Management, which laid bare the data of up to four million former and current government employees last month.
Beijing, however, has dismissed the allegations as "irresponsible and unscientific."
During a closed-door meeting at the White House on Wednesday, President Barack Obama urged a Chinese delegation to take “concrete steps” to ease tensions over alleged cyber intrusions and maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
The meeting was the annual strategic and economic dialogue between Washington and Beijing. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew hosted the talks.