South China Sea: Furious Beijing accuses US of ‘inciting confrontation’

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The two nations have been locked in a bitter war of words this week in respect of the disputed waterway, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo infuriating Beijing with his description of China’s pursuit of offshore resources as being “completely unlawful”. Mr Pompeo’s words drew a swift rebuke from Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who accused the US of being a “troublemaker” seeking “nothing but chaos”.

The statement, issued by a spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in Washington, continued in a similar vein, accusing the US State Department, which Mr Pompeo heads up, of deliberately distorting the facts and international law, exaggerating the situation in the region and trying to sow discord between China and other littoral countries.

The statement added: “The United States is not a country directly involved in the disputes.

“However, it has kept interfering in the issue.

Under the pretext of preserving stability, the United States is flexing muscles, stirring up tension and inciting confrontation in the region

Chinese Embassy statement

“Under the pretext of preserving stability, it is flexing muscles, stirring up tension and inciting confrontation in the region.

“Under the pretext of endorsing rules, it is using UNCLOS to attack China while refusing to ratify the Convention itself.

“Under the pretext of upholding freedom of navigation and overflight, it is recklessly infringing on other countries’ territorial sea and airspace and throwing its weight around in every sea of the world.”

The spokesman said: “We advise the US side to earnestly honor its commitment of not taking sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty, respect regional countries’ efforts for a peaceful and stable South China Sea and stop its attempts to disrupt and sabotage regional peace and stability.”

One of the key criticisms of China in relation to the South China Sea, which it claims sovereignty of 90 percent of, is its repeated incursions into waters claimed by smaller neighbours such as Vietnam and the Philippines, often involving huge Chinese Coastguard vessels.

However, the statement insisted China’s position on the South China Sea issue was “consistent and clear-cut”.

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It explained: “While firmly safeguarding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, China has been committed to resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation with countries directly involved, managing differences through rules and mechanisms, and achieving win-win results through mutually beneficial cooperation.”

With regard to China’s relations with its neighbours, the statement added: “The situation of the South China Sea has remained peaceful and stable and is still improving.

“China and other littoral countries have maintained dialogue and communication through consultation mechanisms on maritime affairs, and worked to promote cooperation over the South China Sea.

“Within the framework of fully and effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, China and ASEAN countries are advancing the consultation on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and are making visible progress.”

Speaking on Monday, Mr Pompeo said: “The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening U.S. policy in a vital, contentious part of that region – the South China Sea.

“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.

“In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes.

“We share these deep and abiding interests with our many allies and partners who have long endorsed a rules-based international order.”

A new report published by the Policy Institute think tank today and entitled The Future Strategic Direction of NATO argues the alliance must develop a concerted strategy for dealing with Beijing, especially in relation to the South China Sea.

The report, authored by among others George Robertson, former NATO Secretary General, Michael Fallon, former UK Defence Secretary, and former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, states: “Recent events demonstrate the determination China has to bring Hong Kong under its firm grip, raising grave concerns for its future as well as that of Taiwan.

“China’s argument with India, and ongoing disputes with Japan, demonstrate preparedness to press territorial claims from the Himalayas to the South China Seas.”

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