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Bolton warns China over South China Sea confrontations: U.S. Navy can and will respond

(National SentinelDanger Zone: National Security Adviser John Bolton warned the Chinese government this week over increasingly dangerous confrontations in the South China Sea with U.S. warships sailing in international waters, noting that Navy rules allow for a response to provocations.

The warning came about a week after reports noted that a People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer nearly collided with a U.S. Navy destroyer near one of China’s manmade islands in the SCS.

In discussing the dangerous encounter with the USS Decatur, Bolton said the U.S. Navy warships are permitted to respond with force to protect themselves and their crews from threatening actions taken against them on the high seas.

“The commanders have the authority we need,” Bolton told radio host Hugh Hewitt.

“We will not tolerate threats to American service members. We’re determined to keep international sea lanes open. This is something the Chinese need to understand. Their behavior has been unnecessarily provocative for far too long,” he added.

The Trump administration has been increasingly tough with the Chinese since the president met last year with Chinese President Xi Jinping. In addition to conducting regular FONOPs — Freedom of Navigation Operations — in the South China Sea, the U.S. has beefed up its security alliances with regional powers including Japan, South Korea, and Australia, while courting India and other Asian nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

Also, POTUS Trump has authorized tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports, sparking retaliation from China on a lesser amount of U.S. goods.

Meanwhile, the president is also insisting that the Pentagon stop using Chinese computer components in U.S. weapons systems over concerns that Beijing is using its technology to spy on America and steal data.

U.S. Navy officials said a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer sailed within 45 yards of the Decatur on Sept. 30 near one of the Spratly islands, forcing the American warship to change course.

Beijing claims the entire South China Sea, through which some $5 trillion worth of goods and commerce travel annually.

Washington says the SCS is mostly international waters, and UN arbitrators have rejected China’s claims.

Still, China is a revisionist power on the rise and is becoming more aggressive in waters closer to its own shores.

That said, Bolton made it clear the U.S. would not long tolerate having its warships harassed or threatened. And he suggested that other regional powers such as the Philippines and Japan, among others, build and militarize their own islands to counter Chinese expansionism.

“I think we’ve got to do more first to establish for the Chinese that we do not acknowledge the legitimacy of any of this,” Bolton said.

“The ship near collision you mentioned is an example of how dangerous Chinese behavior is,” he added. “We have now got more participation by allies, the British, the Australians, and others, are sailing with us through the South China Sea. We’re going to do a lot more on that.”

The Chinese “need to know they have not achieved a fait accompli here. This is not a Chinese province and will not be,” Bolton said.

He also credited POTUS Trump with the more aggressive U.S. stand.

“He’s responded in a way that has the Chinese confused. They’ve never seen an American president this tough before. I think their behavior needs to be adjusted in the trade area, in the international, military, and political areas, in a whole range of areas.”

Bolton added that he was hopeful President Xi will be willing to talk with POTUS Trump during the upcoming G-20 meeting next month in Argentina to settle a number of issues on security and trade.

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