As the U.S. mulls sending warships within 12 miles of the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea, Beijing has issued a stern warning to Washington. On Tuesday, the U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the U.S. will sail and fly wherever international laws allow, and the South China Sea is no exception.
China will not tolerate U.S. violations
On Thursday, Chinese media slammed the U.S. for its “ceaseless provocations.” The Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party, said in an editorial that China will not “tolerate rampant U.S. violations” of its territorial waters and skies over the “expanding islands.” Tensions have mounted between the two world powers since China started transforming submerged reefs into artificial islands in the disputed waters.
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The artificial islands are large enough to support military facilities. The U.S. says Chinese activities in the disputed waters threaten freedom of navigation. Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the waters over which China claims full sovereignty. U.S. has responded by telling its Asian allies that it doesn’t recognize artificial islands, and will sail warships past disputed islands.
U.S. responsible for militarization of the South China Sea
Global Times said Chinese forces should be ready to “launch countermeasures” based on the level of U.S. provocation. If the U.S. sails within the 12-mile territorial limit, it will be a “breach of China’s bottom line.” Chinese military will stand up and use force to stop it if the U.S. encroaches on China’s core interests. The Community Party mouthpiece’s editorial comes just a day after the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying accused the U.S. of flexing military muscle far away from its shores.
Chunying said the U.S. presence in the region was the “biggest cause of militarization” in the South China Sea. Last week, Beijing confirmed that it had finished work on two lighthouses on the artificial islands and pledged to build more. Last month, when Chinese warships entered the U.S. territorial waters around the Aleutian islands, the Pentagon said it was an “innocent passage.” It would be interesting to see how Beijing reacts when the U.S. warships sail near the disputed islands.