'Navigational freedom' in S. China Sea a political fallacy aimed at expanding US hegemony: experts
Published: Aug 18, 2023 09:06 PM

Xisha Islands in the South China Sea Photo: VCG

Xisha Islands in the South China Sea Photo: VCG

The US has played up its hyping of the South China Sea, accusing Beijing of building an airstrip on the Xisha Islands that "interfered with navigational rights and freedoms." Experts said the term has become a political fallacy used by the US to expand its hegemony, with the purpose of stirring up mud in the region, undermining stability. 

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that Beijing appears to be constructing a runway on Zhongjian Island of the Xisha Islands, according to satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC. 

The report claims that the work on Zhongjian Island is similar to construction on islands in the Nansha Islands.

Chen Xiangmiao, director of the world navy research center at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times on Friday that the so-called construction of an airstrip does not suggest China is building a new facility, but is merely a repair of some infrastructure damaged by natural disasters. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin slammed the report on Friday as not being in line with facts, stressing that Zhongjian Island is part of the Xisha Islands, which are an inherent part of China's territory. Therefore, the activities China engages in on its own land are legitimate and undisputed.

Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the US State Department Vedant Patel on Thursday claimed that China is interfering with the navigational rights and freedoms that accrue to all states.

Refuting his remarks, Chen questioned whether the US can provide any proof for its claims, as an airstrip doesn't have any impact on the smooth passage of vessels. 

"The term 'navigational rights' has now evolved from a legal concept into a political one, which is a complete political fallacy created by Washington to expand its hegemony," the expert said. "The US' explanation for this term is that it should be able to deploy its warships to any desired maritime area, regardless of what country the area belongs to."

The US' fresh moves are nothing more than attempts to pressurize China and create new tensions so as to increase China's diplomatic costs and tarnish its reputation, experts said. 

Furthermore, the US is taking the opportunity to stir up regional tension, experts said.

Chen pointed out that judging from the length of the runway, it will most probably be used to maintain navigational safety and provide public maritime services, rather than what Western media hyped as "for military use." 

"Drones have a wide range of applications and could be used to monitor situations around the water area. Rescue helicopters can also land on the runway to provide emergency maritime search and rescue operations."