Sat, Aug 08, 2015 - Page 1 News List

China slams Tokyo, Manila over South China Sea dispute

Reuters, BEIJING

Japan and the Philippines teamed up at a regional security forum this week to attack China over the disputed South China Sea, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, as details emerged of sometimes testy exchanges during the talks in Malaysia.

The ministry released a statement citing Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) as telling the East Asia Summit on Thursday that Beijing was not impeding freedom of navigation in the contested waterway.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told the forum that China was restricting navigation and overflights. Kerry also said China’s construction of facilities for “military purposes” on artificial islands in the South China Sea was raising tensions and risked “militarization” by other claimant states.

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 also have overlapping claims.

The Chinese statement made no mention of Kerry or his criticism at the meetings in Kuala Lumpur, where discussion was dominated by China’s creation of seven islands in the Spratly archipelago (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).

However, it said that Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario “attacked” Beijing’s South China Sea policy and received support from his Japanese counterpart.

“China opposes any non-constructive words and acts which widen division, exaggerate antagonism or create tensions,” the statement cited Wang as telling the forum.

One diplomat inside the meeting room said that China was angered when del Rosario outlined in detail a legal case that Manila filed against Beijing at an international court in The Hague.

The case, which opened last month, concerns what Manila sees as its right to exploit natural resources and fish in the South China Sea. China has refused to take part.

Among other things, del Rosario said China had “irreversibly” damaged the regional marine environment through its reclamation and creation of islands in the Spratlys, according to a copy of his speech.

Wang told the meeting that “China cannot accept the results of any arbitration.”

“The Philippines did not inform the Chinese side in advance, nor did it seek China’s consent and has initiated unilateral arbitration forcefully,” Wang said, urging the Philippines to resolve the dispute through negotiation.

Turning to Tokyo, Wang told the forum that Japan had built up a remote island in the Pacific called Okinotori to enforce Japanese territorial claims.

China has refused to recognize Tokyo’s claims to an exclusive economic zone around Okinotori, which lies about halfway between Guam and Taiwan, 1,700km from Tokyo. It is also known as Douglas Reef or Parace Vela.

“Before criticizing others, Japan must first take a good look at its own words and behavior,” Wang said.

Chinese reclamation and building work on its islands in the South China Sea were to improve living conditions and provide facilities like lighthouses and weather stations, he added.

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