United States President Barack Obama expressed concerns on Thursday that China is trying to impose its will by force in South East Asia, after sparks of a diplomatic clash with Philippines and Vietnam. On Friday, Beijing rushed to dismiss such accusations, arguing that China is one of the factors that bring peace and stability in the region.
The controversy started once China defended its right to build anywhere on the reefs in the contested South China Sea, brushing aside any objections form minor countries like Vietnam and Philippines. President Obama firmly criticized the action, describing that what China does “is using its size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions,” and urged the government in Beijing to start respecting the international laws on such matters.
The Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands is only one of the many land bits within the South China Sea that are currently being claimed by more than one nation. China has unequivocally expressed in the past its determination to conduct construction work on the reef, and satellite photos revealed last week the exact thing – Chinese excavators working on a dig site in the Mischief Reef.
There are a few others South East Asian countries, such as the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam, who also claim some of the islands. But China, the undisputed military and economic giant in the region, claims approximately four fifths of the territories within the South China Sea.
President Obama reassured the smaller countries that the US is doing everything in its power to make sure all countries, including China, abide to international law. “We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” the White House leader warned.
While the United States really did make some attempts to ease the tensions between the different claimants in South China Sea disputes, no practical measures were taken, and so China never seemed open to any kind of dialogue with Washington on the matter.
Speaking on behalf of China’s Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying came forward with a public statement on Thursday to address Mr. Obama’s concerns. Hua claimed everything China does in the region is to ensure peace and the safety of the commercial routes going through the South China Sea.
“I think you will agree with me that China has been a robust force for the preservation and promotion of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” the Chinese spokeswoman said, while indicating that the construction works ordered by Beijing involved aids for navigation, search and rescue facilities and shelters for any eventual shipwreck survivors.
Hua concluded her official statement by labeling the operations conducted by the Chinese government as “beyond reproach.” While underlining all the environmental protection measures and the high standards of the work done by Beijing, nowhere in the communiqué was reminded that the territory itself was a subject of debate.
Image Source: Janes
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