Letter from Heads of SFRC and SASC to Kerry and Carter on South China Sea

By Jack Goldsmith
Friday, March 20, 2015, 4:38 PM

Yesterday the Chairmen and Ranking members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (McCain and Reed) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Corker and Menendez) sent a noteworthy letter to Secretaries Kerry and Carter about growing Chinese hegemony in the South China Sea.  It begins:

We are writing in regard to Chinese strategy in the Indo-Pacific maritime domains, and the alarming scope and pace of the land reclamation now being conducted by the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the Spratly island chain of the South China Sea. At a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called the extent of the activities "aggressive," and described it as an effort by China to expand its presence and further consolidate its sovereignty claims. Without a comprehensive strategy for addressing the PRC's broader policy and conduct to assert its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea, including land-reclamation and construction activities, long-standing interests of the United States, as well as our allies and partners, stand at considerable risk.

The letter then outlines the growing threat from China in the South China Sea as the Senators see it, and concludes:

The slow, calculated competition for sovereignty and influence in the Indo-Pacific region is not currently a crisis that garners international headlines. Yet the impact of this competition will likely reverberate for years to come.  The Congress stands ready to support a renewed effort to address this challenge.  More specifically, we look forward to working with you on the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy for the maritime commons of the Indo-Pacific region, and to your thoughts on how the Administration and Congress can best work together on these issues.

The letter is a strong signal to the Administration, and to China.