The Chinese ambassador to the United States slammed the U.S. over a warship sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands in South China Sea as a serious provocation that has exposed the absurdity and hypocrisy of the U.S. position on the South China Sea issue.
Cui Tiankai was reacting to the U.S. destroyer USS Lassen’s intrusion earlier Tuesday. China has officially lodged a strong protest to the U.S. government over the provocative move.
“I think what the United States is doing is a very serious provocation politically and militarily,” Cui said in an interview with CNN.
“It’s a clear attempt to escalate the situation and to militarize the region. So we’re very concerned about that,” said the veteran diplomat.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest referred questions on any specific operations to the Pentagon but said the United States had made clear to China the importance of free flow of commerce in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.
Cui criticized the United States for taking an “absurd and even hypocritical position” to ask others not to militarize the region while itself is sending military vessels there so frequently.
He strongly refuted the U.S. claim that it was exercising freedom of navigation rights in the region, pointing out that the U.S. move was taken “in total disregard of the international law.”
The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea has clear provision about the safety of navigation, freedom of navigation, and innocent transit, Cui said, noting the United States is not a party to the global treaty.
“What the U.S. is doing is totally against the provision, the letter and spirit of the convention,” he said.
U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter warned that further “freedom of navigation” operations in the region were planned. “We will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits,” he told a congressional hearing, according to The Guardian.
The Chinese envoy stressed that China has a long-standing sovereignty over the islands in the region and the waters surrounding them.
He was responding to the U.S. claim that it does not recognize the territorial rights of China’s man-made land features in the South China Sea.
Cui said that, in view of the U.S. actions, China has to seriously think about beefing up its defense capabilities in the region.
“We have to make sure we have sufficient means to safeguard our sovereignty there, to protect our lawful rights there, and … maintain peace and stability there, and nobody will have any more illusion that it could continue to provoke,” he said.
Cui stressed that whatever is happening now will not change China’s position on its sovereignty in the region or weaken its determination to safeguard its sovereignty and seek a peaceful solution to the territorial disputes with countries concerned.
“And it certainly will not weaken our position and commitment to developing a healthy and strong relationship with the United States. But this is a two-way track and we have to have reciprocal actions from the United States,” he added.
China warns US military over incursions in South China Sea
A teleconference will seek to quiet the turbulence in the South China Sea. Top Navy commanders from the U.S. and China will speak.
They’ll discuss this week’s patrol mission by a U.S. navy warship close to islands claimed by China in the South China Sea.
China’s Ministry of National Defense has briefed a group of Chinese journalists. CCTV’s Han Bin reports.