US accusations of South China Sea militarization ‘ridiculous’: Beijing
Beijing has lambasted as “ridiculous” Washington’s claims about alleged militarization of the South China Sea, after the US military said it would confront China’s actions in the disputed waters.
“Hyping up militarization in the South China Sea by some people in the US is quite preposterous,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a daily press briefing on Thursday.
China’s sovereignty claim over the whole South China Sea has been challenged by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines. The sea serves as a gateway to global sea routes, though which about $3.4 trillion of trade passes each year.
Washington openly opposes China’s claim over the sea and it also constantly accuses Beijing of undertaking a land reclamation program through building artificial islands in the sea and deploying weapons there. Washington also says Beijing could use the islands as military bases.
Hua’s comments came two days after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the US would continue to confront what Washington sees as China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea. He also called the disputed sea as “international waters” where “a lot of nations want to see freedom of navigation.”
Over the weekend, two US Navy warships, the Higgins guided-missile destroyer and the Antietam, a guided-missile cruiser, sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Paracel Islands of the South China Sea islands, which are claimed by China, drawing strong criticism from Beijing.
However, Washington claims such operations are meant to protect “freedom of navigation” in the sea.
Elsewhere in her remarks, Hua questioned whether the so-called “freedom of navigation” operations were really about preserving the right for vessels to sail through the region or an attempt to maintain hegemony there.
“This sounds like a case of a thief crying ‘stop thief’ to cover their misdeeds,” she said, referring to the US military presence in the disputed waters.
Speaking at a separate briefing, Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang also said that no country had the right to “make irresponsible remarks” about China’s building of necessary defense facilities on its own territory, referring to the islands of the sea.
However, he said Washington had formally proposed Mattis visit China, and both countries were coordinating on details. He did not provide a date for a possible visit.
The US military presence in the region, halfway around the world, has also led to worries about an increasing risk of accidental collisions that could spark a consequential wider conflict.