WASHINGTON TIMES — Escalating tensions over China’s aggressive territorial claims in the South China Sea are casting a heavy pall over major international naval exercises underway in the Pacific, exposing what some analysts say is a growing rift between President Obama and his top naval advisers over how to repulse Beijing’s provocations in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.
The Komodo 2016 naval gathering is supposed to be for feel-good exercises. Ships from the U.S., China and nearly three dozen other nations come together to practice maritime cooperation to prepare for natural disasters such as the 2004 tsunami blamed for more than 230,000 deaths.
But geopolitics and the South China Sea dispute are threatening to overshadow the exercises’ original purpose.
Chinese officials have complained in recent days about rival Japan’s plans to send a 3,950-ton Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer through contested waters of the South China Sea to join the exercises and condemned a statement from the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven meeting in Japan this week that expressed their “strong opposition to any intimidating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions” in the waterway — a clear warning to Beijing.
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