Singapore — US Sen. John McCain says America needs to provide Vietnam with more defensive weapons, as tensions in the Asia Pacific region heighten over China’s expanding land reclamation projects in the South China Sea.
McCain says he wants to see a gradual removal of the US ban on providing lethal arms to Vietnam. The Republican senator from Arizona says the US should provide additional defensive weapons that could be used in case of a conflict with China. The US currently only allows the sale of lethal maritime security capabilities and for surveillance on a case-by-case basis.
McCain, who was speaking during the International Institute for Strategic Studies summit, said the US should continue its ban on weapons used for crowd control or to commit human rights abuses.
China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea is out of step with international rules, and turning underwater land into airfields won’t expand its sovereignty, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told an international security conference yesterday, stepping up America’s condemnation of the communist giant as Beijing officials sat in the audience.
Carter told the room full of Asia-Pacific leaders and experts that the US opposes “any further militarization” of the disputed lands.
His remarks were immediately slammed as “groundless and not constructive” by a Chinese military officer in the audience.
Carter’s comments came as defense officials revealed that China had put two large artillery vehicles on one of the artificial islands it is creating in the South China Sea. The discovery fuels fears in the US and across the Asia-Pacific that China will try to use the land reclamation projects for military purposes.