US general: We can take down China’s islands | Global News

US general: We can take down China’s islands

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 07:03 AM June 02, 2018

A sprawling Chinese military facility on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea that is within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone. AFP

The United States “has had lot of experience” in “taking down small islands” in the Pacific region, a senior US military official said on Thursday as the Pentagon ratcheted up rhetoric over China’s militarization of islands and reefs in the contested South China Sea.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the US military’s Joint Staff, spoke with CNN reporters amid rising tension in the hotly contested region where the US Navy again conducted freedom of navigation operations (Fonop) this week.


Asked about the ability of the United States to “blow apart” one of China’s controversial man-made islands, McKenzie told CNN: “I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands.”


The US Navy sailed a missile cruiser and a missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of the  Paracel Islands in the past week, the first time it has used more than one vessel in the Fonop operations, which are meant to highlight the right of free passage in international waters.

The Paracels, north and west of Spratly Islands, are being claimed by Vietnam and China.

On Wednesday, Adm. Harry Harris, outgoing head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said China was the “biggest long-term challenge” of the United States in the region.

China’s hegemony dream

“Without focused involvement and engagement by the United States and our allies, China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia,” he said.

The Chinese government has reacted furiously to recent US statements. At a regular press conference on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the United States accusing China of militarizing the region was “like a thief crying, ‘Stop thief!’”


“Why does the [United States] choose to sail every now and then close to Chinese South China Sea islands and reefs? What is the [United States] trying to do?” she said.

As one of the most senior officers in the Pentagon, McKenzie’s words carry particular weight.

He serves as a top deputy for Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and frequently attends meetings with Dunford and US Defense Secretary James Mattis.

On Thursday, McKenzie made clear the US military was “prepared” to “protect [United States] and allied interests in the region.”

A lot of experience

He said the United States had a lot of experience blowing up small islands, referring to US military operations during World War II where US troops fought their way across several islands in the Pacific.

“So that’s a core competency of the US military, that we’ve done before; shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact,” he told CNN.

The US Navy regularly sails to the South China Sea. During the latest operation, the United States said a Chinese ship operated in an unprofessional manner close to the US ships.

McKenzie said the “steady drumbeat” of US naval operations would continue. “We will continue to conduct Fonops as is allowed by international law.”

Broken promise

Mattis said this week that China had not lived up to its promise not to militarize the area. “They have moved  in weaponry that was never there before,” he said.

US surveillance recently revealed Chinese antiship and antiaircraft missile batteries on artificial islands. And earlier this month, Chinese state media announced that a nuclear strike-capable Chinese bomber had landed on its island for the first time.

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“We are also going to confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue, and part of this is we maintain a very transparent military activity out in the Pacific,” Mattis said.

TAGS: China, Pentagon, South China Sea, US

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