BEIJING – China’s Defense Ministry blamed the United States for “mobilizing and militarizing” the South China Sea by staging patrols and joint military drills there, inclining up the talk in front of a key regional territorial security meeting in Malaysia one week from now.
China has repeatedly encouraged Washington not to take sides in the raising and escalating maritime dispute over the area, where the Asian giant a year ago stepped up its creation of fake islands, disturbing and alarming neighbors and provoking US criticism.
Washington has requested China stop land reclamation and militarization of the disputed region and seek a peaceful resolution indicated by international law.
China has been angered by US navy and air force forays through waters it asserts as its own, particularly this month, when US Navy Admiral Scott Swift said he joined a normal observation flight.
“The United States remains quiet when countries like the Philippines carry out large-scale construction projects and deploy armaments on China’s islands which they illegally occupied. But the US makes irresponsible remarks about China’s rightful activities on its own soil. This is a classic case of double standards,” Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the ministry, noted.
The United States has also stepped up military contacts, including drills, with regional allies such as the Philippines, which also has claims in the South China Sea.
The United States was hyping up the “China threat” and attempting to sow discord between China and other claimant countries, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a monthly news briefing.
“China is here for peace and we are extremely concerned at the United States’ pushing of the militarization of the South China Sea region,” he said. “What they are doing can’t help but make people wonder whether they want nothing better than chaos.”
For a long time, the United States had carried out frequent, widespread, close-in surveillance of China, by sending ships and aircraft to the region, he added.
“Recently they have further increased military alliances and their military presence, frequently holding joint drills.”
But if certain US officials wanted to take civilian flights over the South China Sea to “enjoy its beauty,” China had no problem with that, he said.
China’s own drills there are a normal part of its routine military exercises and not aimed at any third party, Yang said.
But he expressed concern at reports that Filipino fishermen had found buoys with Chinese markings near the disputed Scarborough Shoal and towed them back to shore northwest of Manila.
“If these reports are correct, then certain people have elbowed their way into somebody else’s home, and taken others’ possessions.”
The South China Sea is likely to feature prominently at next week’s security meeting in Malaysia, attended by Southeast Asia and Chinese foreign ministers and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, but Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and others have overlapping claims.