The commander of US forces in the Pacific says his country won’t allow China to shut off access to the South China Sea.

Admiral Harry Harris said other countries should join freedom of navigation exercises in the region but the decision is up to individual nations.

Speaking at the Lowy Institute, Admiral Harris said his country would confront China where necessary and would not allow the continued building of artificial reefs in the region.

‘We will not allow shared domains to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial islands in the South China Sea,’ he said.

‘We will co-operate where we can but we will confront them where we must.’

Admiral Harris said Australia could ‘walk and chew gum’ at the same time and was not being asked to make a choice between the US and China.

Australia has not yet flown or sailed within the 12 nautical miles – recognised as a country’s territorial limit – of Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea.

He said the conduct of freedom of navigation operations was not a measure to deter China, but to uphold that right to the benefit of all countries in the region, including China.

‘As China’s navy grows bigger and has a more global reach, they’re going to appreciate the freedom of navigation concept in other countries and other regions in the world,’ he said.

Admiral Harris said both an ‘increasingly assertive China’ and ‘revanchist Russia’ had a choice in whether to contribute to the rules-based international order or to disregard it.

Speaking on concerns the US-Australian alliance could change under Donald Trump, Admiral Harris said the partnership would remain an anchor for the Asia-Pacific region.

‘It’s based on shared respect, shared values and shared resolve…and I believe it will be the same with the incoming thirteenth administration across this alliance.

‘No one should doubt the staying power of this alliance to maintain security, prosperity and peace,’ he said.

With the so-called Islamic State losing territory in the Middle East, the Commander of the United States Pacific Command says our region will be seriously tested by foreign fighters returning to their home nations.

‘It’s clear to me ISIL is trying to re-balance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific as well, so we must stop them now. But we can’t do it alone and to halt ISIL’s cancerous spread, we must work together like like-minded nations in the region and across the globe,’ he said.

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The commander of US forces in the Pacific says his country won't allow China to shut off access to the South China Sea. Admiral Harry Harris said other countries should join freedom of navigation exercises in the region but the decision is up to individual nations. Speaking at the Lowy Institute,...