Saturday, 19 August, 2017

Beijing accuses Washington of violation of its territorial waters

Philippines offers North Korea ASEAN partner status US Navy destroyer sails within reach of disputed Chinese territory: Reuters
Melinda Barton | 13 August, 2017, 11:06

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement that the USA move undermined Chinese sovereignty and security and endangered the safety of front-line personnel from both sides.

McCain "traveled close to Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals", Reuters reported.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned against "outside interference" in the negotiations, and claimed China had finished land reclamation on islands two years ago. Both the Navy and the missile forces were expected to get the bulk of China's annual defense budget, which previous year amounted to $152 billion, second only to that of the U.S.

Powerhouse China has the biggest claim by far.

Beijing might have got its way over the language used in last week's communique from Asean foreign ministers, but observers say its sweeping claims to the South China Sea are facing fresh challenges.

The Philippines is increasingly reluctant to allow the United States to use its territory to "deter" China or to jointly exercise with it in the South China Sea.

Under the Philippines' chairmanship, the regional body has effectively echoed China's position on the South China Sea, where Beijing is continuously expanding and upgrading artificial islands meant to reinforce its contentious claims to sovereignty.

And in a move that could challenge Beijing's interests in the world's busiest and most strategic shipping lanes, defence ministers from the USA and Vietnam have pledged to deepen military ties for their common interests in the South China Sea.

"Certain external forces are swimming against the current and continuing to stir up trouble under the pretext of "freedom of navigation, '" Mr. Geng said".

Washington's critical actions came as it courts the help of China, North Korea's most important economic partner, in taming Pyongyang's nuclear weapons ambitions and ending its missile tests. The reef is an artificial island built by China in the Spratly Islands, known by China as the Nansha Islands.

Defending the first Chinese overseas naval base against criticism that it would amplify China's growing influence, he said it will act as a logistics centre and support anti- piracy, United Nations peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief missions in the region.

A war of words between the United States and North Korea reached unprecedented new levels this... "The Chinese military is firmly opposed to such flaunting of force and promotion of militarization in the region by the US, which could easily trigger accidents at sea and in the air".

"All operations are conducted in accordance with global law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever worldwide law allows", he said.

This amounts to an explicit recognition that the Philippines is toeing China's line as ASEAN's chair.

The US official said the interactions were all "safe and professional", with the operation of the USS McCain lasting about six hours from start to finish.