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Relations between the US and China continue to worsen amid growing discontent over the origin of the coronavirus, the sovereignty of Hong Kong, the South China Sea and space programmes. Kevin Hern, Republican representative for the District of Oklahoma, has highlighted the energy-rich South China Sea as a major area of concern for the US amid Beijing’s’ growing presence in the region.
China’s sovereignty over the South China Sea is disputed by claims from neighbouring Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam – however this has not stopped Beijing from establishing military bases on the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands.
Mr Hern, who is a member of the House of Representatives, has accused the Chinese military of “dangerously antagonising” US vessels and warned the situation will get worse once China’s economy and Navy personnel increases.
In the Washington-based newspaper The Hill, Mr Hern wrote: “We may not be at war with China, but they are at war with us.
“In the South China Sea, the Chinese Navy is building island-fortresses and their warships are dangerously antagonising US Navy vessels securing international trade routes.
“Imagine how those confrontations will look when China’s GDP and Navy double in size – and they surely will if nothing changes.”
The South China Sea is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and a 2015 US Department of Defense report found an estimated $5.3 trillion (£4 million) worth of goods are shuttled through the region every year.
The key ally of the US President has claimed China is also “seeking out conflict” with the US in Space.
China has rapidly grown its Space programme in recent years and has conducted seven launches this year alone.
In March, three Chinese military satellites were launched into orbit – believed to be operated by the Chinese military for intelligence-gathering purposes.
Space analysts suggested the satellites could be testing new electronic eavesdropping equipment, or helping the Chinese military track foreign naval deployments – but details of the mission were not disclosed by the Chinese Government.
China also aims to complete a multi-module, inhabited space station by 2022.
The US has stepped-up its space programme, and on Wednesday SpaceX and NASA were on course to send the first flight of US astronauts into orbit from American soil in nine years.
However stormy weather thwarted the mission and it will be re-launched this Saturday.
Mr Hern highlighted the significance of the US keeping tracks with China and warned Beijing’s Space programme could become the biggest threat.
He said: “It isn’t just at sea and cyberspace where China is seeking out conflict.
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“China’s encroachment into space may prove to be their greatest security risk.
“They have already conducted shows of force by shooting down their own satellites.
“The collaborative work between SpaceX and NASA – and the creation of a military Space Force – are important.
“The US needs to have the capabilities to meet the Chinese threat in space.”
Later today, the US President will once again lock horns with Beijing by making a statement on the situation in Hong Kong after China made a move to gain more control over former British colony
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress on Wednesday that China has undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and would no longer be subject to special status under US law.
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