US national security adviser John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 24, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
US national security adviser John Bolton is thought to be a key player in talks with North Korea. Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

In the latest round of saber-rattling from Washington, US national security adviser John Bolton said in a radio interview aired on Friday that China’s “behavior needs to be adjusted in the trade area, in the international, military and political areas.”

Speaking to The Hugh Hewitt Show in an interview recorded on Thursday, the Trump administration official known for his hawkish views said China had taken advantage of the world order for too long and that previous US governments had failed to stand up to it.

“Now is the time to do it,” he said according to agency reports on his comments.

Bolton also said recent Chinese behavior in the South China Sea, where a US warship had a near collision with a Chinese vessel last month, was “dangerous,” while adding that the US was determined to keep the contested maritime area’s sea lanes open.

“This is something the Chinese need to understand,” he said, adding that US allies including Britain and Australia were also sailing through the South China Sea to keep the area open to international navigation. Japan has also participated in recent exercises in the area.

“We’re going to do a lot more on that,” he said in referring to US freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. Bolton also broached the idea of oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, though he did not mention with which claimant states the US might aim to prospect with. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei all have claims in the area.

“I think we could see more exploitation of mineral resources in the South China Sea with or without Chinese cooperation. They need to know they have not achieved a fait accompli here. This is not a Chinese province and will not be.”

Significantly, Bolton’s comments come after recent news reports that the US plans a massive show of force in the South China Sea in November, potentially coinciding with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s scheduled visit to the Philippines.

The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet’s reported classified proposal aims to carry out several missions over a week period as a warning to China and a demonstration of America’s resolve and capacity to counter Beijing’s recent militarization of the contested waterway, reports said.

The exercises, if launched, would underline US President Donald Trump’s emerging “peace through strength” strategy to contain China’s maritime assertiveness. Bolton also said China’s violation of international norms in trade and business had allowed it to gain substantial economic and military strength.

“If they’re put back in the proper place they would be if they weren’t allowed to steal our technology, their military capabilities would be substantially reduced. And a lot of the tensions we see caused by China would be reduced,” Bolton said.

He indicated that Washington was prepared to take more action to restrict sensitive high-tech exports to China.

“We did this and continue to do it in terms of dual-use technology that could affect nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or ballistic-missile development,” he said.

“They’ve never seen an American president this tough before,” Bolton said referring to Trump. “Perhaps we’ll see at the G-20 meeting in Argentina next month Xi Jinping willing to come to talk turkey on some of these issues.”

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