Beijing warns US on sovereignty ahead of South China Sea ruling
WASHINGTON/BEIJING – ReutersThe United States should do nothing to harm China’s sovereignty and security in the South China Sea, China’s foreign minister told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, ahead of a key court ruling on China’s claims in the disputed waterway.
Speaking by telephone on July 6, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Kerry the United States should stick to its promises not to take sides in the dispute, China’s foreign ministry said.
China hopes the United States “speaks and acts cautiously, and take no actions that harm China’s sovereignty and security interests,” the statement paraphrased Wang as saying.
Tensions and rhetoric have been rising ahead of a July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing the dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea in the Dutch city of The Hague.
China is conducting military exercises around the Paracel Islands in the north of the region this week, while U.S. Navy officials said on July 7 that U.S. destroyers had been patrolling around Chinese-held reefs and islands in the contested Spratly Islands to the south.
While not close enough to be within 12 nautical miles - a so-called freedom of navigation operation that would require high level approval - the destroyers operated within 14 to 20 nautical miles of the Chinese-occupied features, the Navy Times reported.
The USS Ronald Reagan and its escort ships have also been patrolling the South China Sea since last week.
“All of these patrols are conducted in accordance with international law and all are consistent with routine Pacific Fleet presence throughout the Western Pacific,” Pacific Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Clint Ramsden told Reuters.
China frequently blames the United States for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Speaking in Beijing following a meeting with Wang on July 7, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that while he could not comment on the Philippines legal case, he called for a peaceful resolution of differences.
“I did stress to minister Wang, as I have with all other countries involved, the need to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner and to avoid any escalation or misunderstandings that could put security and development in the region at risk.”
Wang repeated China’s position that it also wanted a peaceful resolution, but that it would not accept forced arbitration.
“This approach will not help bring about a peaceful resolution of disputes. On the contrary, it would only escalate the disputes and tension and should be resisted by all countries and people who uphold justice.”
China has accused the United States of militarizing the waterway with freedom of navigation patrols, while Washington has expressed concern about China’s building of military facilities on islands it controls in the South China Sea.