China’s activities in South China Sea draw renewed criticism from US

World Today

China’s activities in the South China Sea are once again the target of criticism from Washington.

En route to Vietnam for talks, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters the U.S. remains “highly concerned with continued militarization of features” in the region. There was swift rebuke from Beijing.

CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports.

“Like any other country in the world, China’s peaceful construction activities on its own territory, including the deployment of necessary defense facilities, are the exercise of the right to self-insurance and self-defense of sovereign states under international law. This has nothing to do with “militaryization,” said Lu Kang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

The exchange comes a little more than two weeks after a U.S. destroyer – the Decatur – came within the 12 nautical mile territorial limit claimed by China.  The Chinese defense ministry said a Chinese naval ship reacted to identify the U.S. ship and warn it off. Washington said the Decatur had to maneuver at the last minute to avoid a collision.

The incident occurred in the Nansha island chain, known in the U.S. as the Spratlys. The chain is claimed by China and the Philippines as well as three other entities.

On Thursday, negotiators from China and the Philippines will gather for their third consultation over concerns in the region as well as efforts to cooperate on joint oil and gas exploration. After initiating an international tribunal case against Beijing over its territorial claims, Manila’s leadership is now choosing to engage.

In August, foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China agreed to a single draft document to form the basis of talks on a code of conduct for the South China Sea. But Vietnam reportedly called for countries to stop building military installations on islands there — the strongest opposition to Beijing’s activities.

While the U.S. maintains it does not take sides in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it often sails ships within the territorial limit claimed by China, as a message that Washington does not recognize Chinese sovereignty over the area. Washington has stepped up these operations recently and intends to continue.

Sourabh Gupta on the latest tensions in the South China Sea

CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke with Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies, about renewed tensions in the South China Sea.