China opposes US maneuvers in South China Sea

By Song Shengxia and Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/26 0:03:39

US moves will militarize region: official

Ren Guoqiang Photo: Ministry of Defense

China on Thursday expressed strong opposition to recent US military maneuvers near the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea and urged the country to desist from taking actions that undermine China's sovereignty and security interests.

Defense ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said at a press conference on Thursday that the USS Dewey guided missile destroyer entered waters near reefs that form part of China's Nansha Islands, and the People's Liberation Army navy's Luzhou and Liuzhou missile frigates identified the US vessel, sent a warning to the destroyer and drove it from the area.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the neighboring sea area, and the Chinese military firmly opposes the US military's move which will militarize the region and increase the possibility of accidents in both sea and air. China has made solemn representations to the US," Ren said.

"Due to the joint efforts made by China and ASEAN member states, the situation in the South China Sea is stabilizing, but the US' mistaken behavior will worsen the situation. We demand the US correct its mistakes," Ren stressed, adding that the US' behavior will make the Chinese military further strengthen its ability to guard China's national sovereignty and security.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a daily press conference on Thursday that China has expressed strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition to the US' latest move, which has seriously undermined dialogue and consultation processes and harmed both the US and other countries' interests.

The US Navy vessel sailed within 12 nautical miles of Meiji Reef in the South China Sea in a "freedom of navigation operation (FONOP)," the Financial Times reported Thursday. 

"We operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea," Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, was quoted by the FT as saying. 

"Freedom of navigation is not about any one country, or any one body of water," he said. 

Such an act carried out in the name of a routine patrol or FONOP is a huge strategic mistake by the US military, Peng Guangqian, a military strategist at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Science, told the Global Times.

The US Navy obviously infringed on China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea, Peng said, adding that China will not tolerate any such provocations.

First provocation

This latest move is the first provocation by the US since President Donald Trump took office, coming after Sino-US ties showed signs of stabilizing following the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Trump in early April.

The US military had earlier this year requested permission to perform a FONOP, but it was turned down by the Pentagon, as part of an effort to ease US-China relations, CNN reported on Thursday, citing an unnamed US defense official.  

"Washington may not want to give an impression to the outside world that the US is deeply divided over its foreign policy, given the reports that the Pentagon has repeatedly rejected US military requests to perform a FONOP in the South China Sea," Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times.

Tensions over the South China Sea have eased recently, especially after China and ASEAN countries approved the sea framework. Military actions of any kind that would overturn the balance in the South China Sea align with US interests, Xu said. 

China and ASEAN member states last week approved the framework of the South China Sea Code of Conduct, a key step toward peacefully resolving territorial disputes in the area. 

There is also a possibility that the latest US military move was initiated by the far right in the US military, deliberately acting contrary to Trump's will to embarrass him, Peng said.  

Strong, modern force

Xi on Wednesday called for efforts to build the People's Liberation Army navy into a strong and modern force to lend support to the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation and the dream of a strong army, Xinhua reported. 

"The latest provocation by the US military will surely affect Sino-US relations. There are conflicts of national interests between China and the US over the South China Sea as China seeks to protect its security and sovereignty and the US seeks hegemony," Zhao Xiaozhuo, a research fellow from the Center on China-US Defense Relations at the PLA Academy of Military Science, told the Global Times.

"China and the US remain highly vigilant and prepared for any possible crisis. But the key issue is that they should enhance strategic trust and avoid escalating tensions," Zhao said. 

Newspaper headline: China opposes US sea maneuvers


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