The commander of the U.S. Pacific Command has warned of China's growing military might, saying Beijing has unilaterally built "seven new military bases" in the South China Sea.
"China is attempting to assert de facto sovereignty over disputed maritime features by further militarizing its man-made bases," Adm. Harry Harris said in a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
Harris told the House Armed Services Committee the seven new facilities included "aircraft hangers, barracks facilities, radar facilities, weapon emplacements (and) 10,000-foot runways."
China has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which over one-third of global trade passes.
Harris said he sees Beijing's assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas as "coordinated, methodical and strategic, using their military and economic power to erode the free and open international order."
In the East China Sea, Chinese government vessels have repeatedly intruded into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in an attempt to undermine Japan's administration of the uninhabited islets.
Harris said the U.S. alliance with Japan "has never been stronger," and that Washington's alliance with South Korea is "ironclad."
Harris, who is set to become the next U.S. ambassador to Australia, also hailed the Washington-Canberra alliance, saying bilateral military ties are "terrific" and that Australia is "one of the keys to a rules-based international order."