China building up military in the South China Sea for years, report says

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China reportedly is expanding military facilities in the South China Sea, forcing other nations to respond and turning the region into a powder keg.

President Donald Trump hinted the U.S. might build up its Navy during his presidential campaign, but Washington’s approach has been cool on the issue until now.

A recent National Security Council report calls for reducing the U.S. “pivot” to Asia, citing the use of new naval equipment and software to “normalize” the functions of a fleet of the type seen in the Pearl Harbor attack, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The stance toward the South China Sea was clarified during Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ Asia tour. He told reporters that the Trump administration views the strategically important waters with “an eye to maritime rights and freedoms.”

The U.S. presence in the area has made it easy for China to expand its reach, leading to clashes over disputed islands, artificial islands and the warplanes and weapons ports. Taiwan is fighting to protect its self-ruled territory as U.S. officials express a willingness to help it out.

Next month, the Pentagon will announce a $108 billion plan to put a stronger U.S. military presence throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The report noted that the U.S. Navy has significant improvements in its latest warship, the aircraft carrier, which has adequate room to prevent the collisions that killed more than 300 sailors during the most recent carrier fleet update.

“The Ford is far more difficult to destroy in a nuclear weapons attack, using passive defenses, ballistic missiles, and specific defenses provided by advanced stealth jets, such as the F-35, and advanced electronic warfare defenses to protect the ship,” it said.

Get more information on China’s military buildup, including its missile testing, in our special report: China’s Perfect Weapon.

Fox News’ James Rosen contributed to this report.

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