China yesterday said that it had lodged a complaint with the US over a US spy plane that flew over parts of the disputed South China Sea in a diplomatic row that has fueled tension between the world’s two largest economies.
Friction in the region has grown over China’s land reclamation in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).
China last week said it was “strongly dissatisfied” after a US spy plane flew over areas near the reefs, with both sides accusing each other of stoking instability.
Washington has called the flight “entirely appropriate,” but China has said it endangered the security of its islands and reefs.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chun-ying (華春瑩) yesterday told a regular news briefing that Beijing had lodged a complaint and that it opposed “provocative behavior” by the US.
“We urge the US to correct its error, remain rational and stop all irresponsible words and deeds,” she said.
“Freedom of navigation and overflight by no means mean that foreign countries’ warships and military aircraft can ignore the legitimate rights of other countries, as well as the safety of aviation and navigation,” she said.
China had noted the “ear-piercing voices” from many in the US about China’s construction on the islands and reefs, she said.
The nationalist Global Times, a tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, yesterday said war was “inevitable” between China and the US unless Washington stopped demanding that Beijing halt the building of artificial islands in the disputed waterway.
It said China was determined to finish its construction work, calling it the country’s “most important bottom line.”
Such commentaries are not official policy statements, but are sometimes read as a reflection of Chinese government thinking.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims.
The US has routinely called on all claimants to halt reclamation in the Spratlys, but accuses China of carrying out work on a scale that far outstrips any other country.
Washington has also vowed to keep up air and sea patrols in the South China Sea amid concerns among security experts that China might impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratlys once it completes work on its seven artificial islands.
China has said it has every right to set up an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, but that current conditions did not warrant one.
The Global Times said “risks are still under control” if Washington takes into account China’s peaceful rise.
“We do not want a military conflict with the United States, but if it were to come, we have to accept it,” the newspaper said.
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