US leaders are pressing China to find a peaceful resolution to disputes over the South China Sea. President Barack Obama, speaking Wednesday in Japan before the G7 summit begins on Thursday, said the tensions are focused on China’s militarization of islands in the region, not anything the US or its allies have done. “So it’s entirely within China’s power to resolve those disputes and our goal with respect to our own interests in the South China Sea is simply to maintain freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, and the maintenance of international rules and norms because we think that benefits everybody, including China,” Obama said. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, speaking Tuesday in New London, Conn., reiterated that countries need to stand up for freedom of navigation, and settle the disputes peacefully.
US Pacific Command boss Adm. Harry Harris, speaking Wednesday at an Association of the US Army event in Hawaii, said his command watches over the region, where $5.3 trillion relies on unimpeded access to sea lanes, $1.2 trillion of which comes from or is heading toward the US. China is “pressurizing access to a maritime super highway,” Harris said. The Defense Department has increased its focus on the region and the Air Force in April began regular rotations to the Philippines to help patrol the South China Sea.