ASIA TIMES — The Obama administration continued to send mixed signals to China regarding its aggression in the South China Sea by criticizing aggressive behavior in the area while inviting the People’s Liberation Army to take part in a large international naval exercise this summer.
China has been aggressively building up military capabilities on disputed South China Sea islands while US forces seek to bolster regional alliances and partnerships to keep the sea free and open to commerce.
The dispute was on display last week as Defense Secretary Ash Carter made a high profile visit to the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis as it plied waters of the South China Sea that China is claiming is mostly its sovereign waters.
Meanwhile, China’s Defense Ministry announced Friday that one of China’s two most powerful generals, Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Gen. Fan Changlong, visited the disputed island of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands near Philippines where China is said to be building a large military base.