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China has taken issue with the US’s role in South China Sea disputes and criticized the Philippines for getting the UN arbitration court involved. A senior Chinese defense official said that China “does not fear trouble” and will protect its sovereignty.
Tensions over sovereignty claims in the China Sea have been rising ahead of the United Nations arbitration court ruling on a maritime dispute between China and the Philippines expected in the coming weeks. Manila initiated the case in January 2013, arguing that Beijing’s claims over much of the South China Sea violated UN conventions. Beijing previously stated that it would not recognize the UN verdict on the issue, unless it was China’s claims that were honored. US presence in the area has also heated things up. The American military has conducted several warship excursions into the disputed waters and has flown numerous surveillance missions over the area. In response, China has referred to the US involvement in the dispute as the “greatest” threat to the region.
“We do not make trouble but we have no fear of trouble”, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, Admiral Sun Jianguo, said at the Shangri-La Dialogue defense forum in Singapore. “China will not bear with the [UN] arbitration award nor allow any infringements of [its] sovereignty and security interests or stay indifferent to the irresponsible behavior of some countries in or around the South China Sea”. Sun said that the “provocation of certain countries” had overheated the issue. “The arbitration is not applicable to the dispute... as the two countries have signed a bilateral agreement and made negotiations the only way to a solution in the declaration of conduct of parties in the South China Sea”, he added. Sun said the issue must be resolved through dialogue. “China and Asean are capable of preserving peace and stability in the South China Sea through cooperation. Other countries should play a constructive role in this regard not the other way around”.
Admiral Sun’s comments on Sunday follow US Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s speech asking China to join a “principled security network” in the Asia-Pacific region and halt the build-up of a “Great Wall of self-isolation”. Carter also reiterated that US will continue to support its ally the Philippines when it comes to overseeing freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that China’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, if established, would be viewed as “provocative and destabilizing act”. “We would consider an ADIZ... over portions of the South China Sea as a provocative and destabilizing act which would automatically raise tensions and call into serious question China’s commitment to diplomatically manage the territorial disputes of the South China Sea”, Kerry said on a visit to Mongolia.