South China Sea: US calls for immediate end to China’s island-building; vows more patrols

China Sea Map
May 2015SOUTH CHINA SEA The United States has called for an immediate end to China’s intensifying reclamation works in the South China Sea and vowed to continue sending military aircraft and ships to the tense region. US Defense secretary Ash Carter told a high-level security conference in Singapore that Beijing was behaving “out of step” with international norms. But this drew a scathing response from China’s foreign ministry in Beijing. “China has reclaimed over 2,000 acres, more than all other claimants combined …and China did so in only the last 18 months,” Mr Carter said at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. “It is unclear how much farther China will go.” He said the United States was “deeply concerned” about the scale of China’s land reclamation and the prospect of further militarization of the islands, saying it would boost “the risk of miscalculation or conflict.”
A Chinese delegate at the forum initially gave a measured response, in which he said Mr Carter’s comments were not as hostile as those made at the Shangri-La Dialogue in previous years, but the foreign ministry reacted strongly. “The United States disregards history, legal principles and the facts,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. “China’s sovereignty and relevant rights were established a long time ago in the South China Sea,” she said, adding that China’s island-building is “legal, reasonable, conforms to the situation and neither impacts nor targets any country.” Despite the rhetoric, Mr. Carter said there was no military solution to the South China Sea disputes. “Right now is the time for renewed diplomacy, focused on a finding a lasting solution that protects the rights and interests of all,” he said. Admiral Sun Jianguo, the head of Beijing’s delegation, addresses the conference on Sunday. China took a measured tone after bilateral meetings with Japan and Vietnam on Friday, two of the states it is embroiled with in maritime sovereignty disputes. In his speech, Mr Carter urged China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to adopt a “code of conduct” in the disputed waters this year.
According to state news agency Xinhua, China’s vice foreign minster said the code was “meant to be a set of rules for China and countries in this region rather than rules set by outsiders for us,” adding that “positive progress” had been made. ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the sea, along with Taiwan. Meanwhile, Japan and China both claim islands that lie between them in the East China Sea. But earlier this week, Beijing was assertive about the disputes. In a policy document issued by the State Council, the country’s cabinet, China vowed to increase its “open seas protection,” switching from air defense to both offence and defense, and criticized neighbors who took “provocative actions” on its reefs and islands. Mr. Carter’s remarks in Singapore came a day after the Pentagon confirmed reports that China had put mobile artillery at one of its reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. Defense chief insisted US forces would continue to “fly, sail and operate” in the region to ensure the freedom of navigation and over-flight permitted by law. –ABC News
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