THE Trump administration has vowed to protect American interests in the South China Sea and block China’s occupation of artificial islands in international waters, a statement that drew a defiant reaction from Beijing.
“If those islands are, in fact, in international waters and not part of China proper, yeah, we’ll make sure we defend international interests from being taken over by one country,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a news briefing on Monday.
Beijing said it would be “firm in safeguarding our rights” in the disputed waters, while an influential Chinese newspaper said China must strengthen its nuclear arsenal to “force the US to respect it” in response to the stance of the new Trump administration.
The Global Times said China’s nuclear forces “must be so strong that no country would dare launch a military showdown” with it.
China’s state media earlier warned that the US would need to “wage a large-scale war” if it puts up a blockade in the South China Sea, in response to statements from the US Secretary of State-designate, Rex Tillerson.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua dismissed the newspaper piece and said Beijing would exercise a “wait-and-see” approach on the issue.
“Our policy is for peace and stability. I don’t think that it is advisable or wise for China and the US to engage in a confrontation,” he said during the Chinese Embassy’s Spring Festival reception in Makati City on Monday night.
Zhao announced that President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, will hold bilateral talks in May at the sidelines of a multilateral forum.
The Philippine leader was said to have confirmed his attendance to the China-led “One Belt, One Road” economic partnership summit in Beijing. This will be his second meeting with Xi after a state visit in October 2016.
“It’s a summit and a bilateral meeting,” Zhao told reporters.