China’s foreign ministry on Friday hit back at US criticism of its reclamation works in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying, “No one has the right to instruct China on what to do.”
Beijing’s statement was carried by the state-owned China Daily and was posted on its English edition website.
Quoting “observers,” the article warned that “Washington is playing with fire” as the US beefs up its military presence in the region.
The Chinese reiterated that they managed to drive away a US Navy reconnaissance aircraft that flew over “China’s Nansha Islands” as it referred to how they call the Spratlys island chain, which the Philippines in turn refers to as the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG).
Beijing’s statement was released just as the US Embassy in Manila announced the arrival of the USS Shiloh in the former American naval base in Subic, Zambales, this weekend for a routine port call.
The embassy said the guided missile cruiser’s port visit is part of “an ongoing patrol in the Pacific theater.”
Beijing’s statement also came as Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin started talks with his US counterpart in Hawaii about an intelligence sharing pact, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
The statement’s release also came simultaneously with Malacañang’s announcement that President Benigno Aquino 3rd is going to Japan on June 2 to seek defense and security ties.
Like the Philippines, Japan is also mired in a territorial dispute with China over the East China Sea.
Beijing took exception to a statement by US Defense Secretary Ash Carter who on Wednesday called for a halt to China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea as he said US military aircraft and warships will continue to operate in the region wherever permitted under international law.
Chinese Feign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the United States has made a number of comments about China’s construction work on the Spratlys while it “chooses selective silence” toward those who illegally occupy Chinese islands.
“[The US] is either accustomed to taking double standards or has other intentions,” Hua said, urging Washington to avoid any “alienating or provocative words and actions.”
Hua said the overall situation in the South China Sea remains stable, but some countries are attempting to pick fights and others are supporting them by adding fuel.
China Daily also quoted Zhang Junshe, a senior researcher at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute, who said the US armed forces had been “directly interfering” in the situation recently after allies such as Japan and the Philippines failed to respond to Washington’s earlier calls for a joint patrol in the South China Sea.
Zhang said the US double standards were highlighted after China clarified that when the construction works are completed, the islands will be open to the international community for use in activities such as search and rescue. “[The US] aims to contain China,” he added.
Ruan Zongze, vice president of the China Institute of International Studies, said, “Washington i s trying to force Beijing into a corner” as it is misinterpreting China’s construction projects on the islands. The US wants to “shape a stronger presence of itself in the region,” Ruan added.
Hua urged Washington to think seriously about the Asia-Pacific region, saying, “Does it ultimately serve US interests if chaos overwhelms the region, a major engine of world economic growth?”
Ouyang Yujing, director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, has dismissed accusations that China is sabotaging freedom of navigation and the ecological environment in the South China Sea.
“No one cares more than China about the ecological preservation of islands, reefs and sea areas,” Ouyang earlier said.
Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said Washington is making the situation a hot topic and seeking to internationalize it.
“The biggest factor behind this is its anxiety” because “the US is not as confident as it was,” Jin said.
Washington is comforting and appeasing its allies “because they also have some concerns about whether the superpower is reliable or not.”
China Daily said the 7th China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue would be held in Washington next month. Jin said some observers see US actions in the South China Sea as a bargaining chip for Washington.
Amid the word war, Malacanang reiterated that Manila will continue to pursue the diplomatic track in its issue with China, saying the Philippine government will continue to try and settle the matter through peaceful means.
“The Philippines will continue to abide by the Unclos [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] and by the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. We also continue our talks with the different members of the Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] according to the principle of Asean centrality and in crafting a legally binding Code of Conduct,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
“Our position on the importance of maintaining the freedom of navigation, freedom of aviation and the international law in the area is unwavering,” he added.
Explaining President Aquino’s impending trip to Tokyo, a Department of Foreign Affairs official said
both the Philippines and Japan are working now on “additional structures” to strengthen defense relations.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Minda Cruz said Tokyo is seeking to transfer defense equipment and technology to the Philippines. She, however, did not give details.
“We have been very active in terms of capacity- building for the Philippines and also training between our two sides, you know, at the defense side. So that will continue and I think that will continue to be enhanced by both sides,” Cruz said.
With BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON