Chinese media criticised the US on Thursday for “ceaseless provocations” in the South China Sea, with Washington expected to soon send warships close to artificial islands Beijing has built in disputed waters.
An editorial in the Global Times, which is close to China’s ruling Communist party, condemned US “coercion”, adding: “China mustn’t tolerate rampant US violations of China’s adjacent waters and the skies over those expanding islands.”
It said China’s military should “be ready to launch countermeasures according to Washington’s level of provocation”.
Tensions have mounted since China transformed reefs in the area – also claimed by several neighbouring countries – into small islands capable of supporting military facilities, a move the US says threatens freedom of navigation
Following a meeting of American and Australian officials on Tuesday, the US defense secretary, Ash Carter, warned Beijing that Washington would continue to send its military where international law allows, including the South China Sea.
The remarks were backed by the Australian foreign minister, Julie Bishop, who said the two countries were “on the same page”.
The warship or ships would pass within the 19km (12-mile) territorial limit China claims around the structures, to demonstrate that US commanders do not recognise it.
Such a move, the Global Times suggested, could be a “breach of China’s bottom line”.
“If the US encroaches on China’s core interests, the Chinese military will stand up and use force to stop it,” the paper warned.
Satellite images of the islands published by a Washington-based think tank show runways that could be used by air force jets.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – claim parts of the sea. Taiwan is a sixth claimant.
China has invited Asean defence ministers for a two-day informal summit in Beijing starting on Thursday, according to the country’s defence ministry.
Meanwhile, Vietnam has accused China of sinking one of its fishing boats near disputed islands in the South China Sea that could further raise tensions between the Communist neighbours.
The Chinese government is warning the United States and its allies to stop “adding fuel to the flames” in the longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea, following a joint announcement by America and Australia that the nations fully intend to exercise their right to navigate the body of water, which China claims entirely for itself.
“It would be more helpful if they could honour their commitment of not taking sides on relevant disputes and do more to promote regional peace and stability in the true sense of the words rather than light a fire and add fuel to the flames,” the Chinese embassy in Australia said in a statement Wednesday, following a joint statement from Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Secretary of State Ashton Carter regarding the South China Sea. China added that it was “seriously concerned” about an American and Australian presence in the South China Sea and urged “the relevant sides to stop applying double standard.”
Australia and the United States agreed in a joint meeting of high-ranking defense officials in Boston to “enhance naval cooperation across all domains” and wrote that they were both “seriously concerned” about the construction of artificial islands and deployment of military equipment by China in the South China Sea’s international waters.
In addition to natural resources possessed by the territory, the South China Sea is a richly trafficked trading route, making it an attractive claim for China. The Wall Street Journalexplains:
The South China Sea is home to rich natural resources and half of all global shipborne trade: some $5 trillion a year in oil, food, iPhones and more. By asserting “indisputable sovereignty” over its nearly 1.35 million square miles, including vast swaths of sea belonging to its neighbors, Beijing threatens to hold hostage—and to wage war over—the economic heart of East Asia.
In addition to the Chinese embassy’s statement, a column in the official China Daily has condemned the United States for “giving unprincipled protection” to China’s neighbors and “using ‘free navigation’ as an excuse to interfere in the regional territorial disputes.”
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