South China Sea warning: Beijing sends chilling threat to US to stop ‘flexing its muscles’
The warning came after US Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe met Monday in Bangkok. The two ministers were attending a meeting of defence officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other countries. Among the topics up for discussion were the ongoing political crisis in Hong Kong and the status of the south China Sea.
China is belligerently insisting that that the entire waterway up to the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Taiwan belongs to it.
However, neighbouring states along with much of the international community view China’s maritime claims as excessive and a violation of international law.
The US is determined to ensure that the disputed waters remain open to all ships, in an effort to protect “freedom of navigation”.
This is particularly important, as billions of pounds worth of commercial traffic passes through the waters each year.
As a result, the US regularly sends warships to the region and in recent weeks has carried out a series of naval training exercises with India and Japan in an apparent show of strength.
But in a sign that China will no longer passively countenance the presence of US warships, China announced that it was sending its new aircraft carrier to the region for training and research purposes.
Beijing claimed that the deployment of the carrier was not linked to recent events.
In a statement on its website, the People’s Liberation Army Navy spokesman Cheng Dewei said: “Training of the homemade aircraft carrier is a normal arrangement in the process of aircraft carrier construction, is not aimed at any specific target and has nothing to do with the current situation.”
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An article in the state-run newspaper Global Times said the testing “will allow the aircraft carrier crew to become familiar with the sea area where it will often sail in the future.”
It also claimed that if the South China Sea training is successful, the carrier could soon be commissioned at a ceremony in Sanya, a port in southern Hainan province.
Ominously, the article hinted that the carrier might be stationed permanently at Sanya in the future due to its strategic location.
It said: “The South China Sea will be right at its doorstep, and not far from the island of Taiwan.”
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Relations between Beijing and Washington have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, with trade talks hitting yet another stumbling block.
A Chinese academic has warned the US that unless it addresses China’s legitimate security concerns and interests, then there can be no prospect of improving military ties between the two superpowers.
Writing in the Global Times, Zhang Junshe, a senior research fellow at the PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute said: “The biggest stumbling block in promoting China-US military ties lies in whether Washington would be willing to respect Beijing’s core interests and major security concerns.
“Such moves of the US are related to the growing tough attitude toward China within US administration.”
He added: “On the one hand, defence officials have been claiming to seek stable development of military relations with China, including maintaining high-level exchanges and contacts in non-traditional security fields.
“Yet on the other, the US defence establishment is provoking China over the latter’s core interests and major security concerns.”
This comes as the US stepped up its rhetoric against China in light of the ongoing political protests in Hong Kong and the regime’s violent response.
The White House condemned what it described as the “unjustified use of deadly force” against protesters.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said: “The United States urges the Hong Kong government to build on its dialogue with the Hong Kong public and begin efforts to address the underlying concerns driving the protests.”
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