Beijing has warned the US not to support China’s neighbors’ claims to disputed islands in the East and South China Seas, the Chinese government said on Friday.
Sino-Japanese ties have soured dramatically since Tokyo nationalized some of the Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyu Archipelago (釣魚群島), in the East China Sea a year ago. Taiwan also lays claim to the islands.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, including waters close to its neighbors’ coasts, and tensions with the Philippines and Vietnam have intensified in recent years.
Washington has security alliances with both Tokyo and Manila, but Wang Guanzhong (王冠中), a senior officer of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), this week warned visiting US counterparts that it should handle issues “appropriately” to avoid damaging “mutual strategic trust.”
“These issues should not become a problem between China and the United States, and China hopes that the United States does not become a third party in these issues,” Wang told US Undersecretary of Defense James Miller, the defense ministry in Beijing said in a statement on its Web site.
“The United States should maintain a consistent stance and policy, not send wrong signals that support or connive with relevant countries to act on their own initiative,” Wang said.
China’s military was determined to defend the country’s territory and maritime interests, although Beijing has exercised restraint while dealing with the disputes, he added.
Miller told Wang the US discourages any use of force, but also has “treaty obligations” with some of the countries at odds with China, he said to reporters earlier this week.
“We strongly believe that any and all maritime disputes should be resolved without the threat or use of force,” he said. “For East China Sea and South China Sea we reminded the Chinese we have treaty obligations with a number of the parties involved.”
Chinese vessels frequently patrol near the disputed East China Sea islands, and Beijing humiliated Manila last year by taking effective control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島), just 200km from the Philippines.
Japan and the US have a security treaty that requires Washington to come to Tokyo’s defense if it is attacked, and tens of thousands of US troops are stationed in the country.
The Philippines said in June it was looking to give the US — its former colonial ruler — and Japan greater access to its military bases, as it seeks to counter what it perceives as a growing threat from China.
Fan Changlong (范長龍), one of China’s three most senior military officers, called on the PLA to “speed up various preparations for sea battles” and “improve maritime deterrence and combat capabilities” while inspecting navy units recently, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.