China’s expansion across disputed territory in the South China Sea is driving up demand for US heavy weapons and military aircraft from Beijing’s neighbors, former US Defense Department official Dov Zakheim told Sputnik.
Earlier on Friday, US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken called on all claimants, including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines, to freeze construction on the islands in the South China Sea.
“We [the United States] are selling everything from combat jets to missiles in… East Asia. China’s heavy-handedness is worrying its neighbors and indeed is spurring an arms buildup throughout the region.”
Chinese dubious claims and aggression has forced its neighbors into a defensive posture, Zakheim noted.
“China’s creation of ‘facts on the sea’ in the South China Sea worries all those who also have claims to various areas of the Sea, and clearly are a motive behind their arms purchases.”
China is not the only global security threat that is driving US weapons sales to foreign countries, he added.
“[G]iven the instability in the Middle East in particular… the demand for American weaponry overseas continues to grow.”
China and its neighbors have been increasingly at odds over maritime claims in the shared waters of the South China Sea.
The United States has also raised concerns over freedom of navigation for US military vessels in Beijing’s exclusive economic zone.
The United States has no territorial claims in the South China Sea, but the White House has stated its interest in upholding international maritime norms. The United States is notably one of the few countries in the United Nations that has not signed onto the UN Law of the Sea convention.