China accuses US of ‘shipping bullying’ in South China Sea

By JIM GOMEZ, Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — China on Friday blasted a senior U.S. Navy official after criticizing Beijing’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea, saying it’s U.S. military deployments in disputed waters – which she called “browsing bullying” – which could spark clashes.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila said it strongly deplored comments by US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, which were “unfounded accusations against China and maliciously defamed” and inflated the “Chinese threat”.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday during a visit to Manila, Del Toro highlighted how Beijing had encroached on the sovereign waters of its Asian neighbors in violation of international law.

US military concentration in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the disputed South China Sea, would never let up and, in fact, has intensified despite the war in Ukraine, he said in an assurance to Asian allies, including the Philippines.

China has had increasingly tense territorial disputes in recent years with the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety for historical reasons. Brunei and Taiwan also have claims in disputed waters.

Washington does not lay claim to the strategic waters, but has said the peaceful resolution of disputes – as well as freedom of navigation and overflight in the waterway through which much of the world’s trade passes – are in the national interest of the United States. .

Beijing rejected a 2016 international arbitration ruling that invalidated its claims and continues to challenge the landmark ruling on a case brought by the Philippine government.

Del Toro renewed President Joe Biden‘s assurance that the United States would honor its obligations under a 1951 mutual defense treaty in the event that Philippine forces, ships and aircraft were attacked in disputed waters.

“As President Biden has said, if any country violates an inch of Filipino sovereignty, whether at sea, on land or on an offshore island, we will be there to support the Filipino nation and the Filipino people of all ages. possible ways,” Del told Toro.

China’s move to turn seven disputed reefs into missile-protected island bases in the Spratlys, the most contested section of the South China Sea, “is deeply concerning” and has prompted the United States and other countries Westerners to pursue freedom of navigation patrols around Chinese-claimed territories.

But the Chinese embassy said the ‘half-world’ US military deployments were aimed at ‘flexing muscles, making military provocations and creating sea and air tension’, carrying out ‘shipping bullying’ on behalf of freedom of navigation.

“In an attempt to preserve its hegemony, the United States continues to intensify its power projection in this region and deliberately seeks to widen differences and provoke tension,” he said.

China and other rival claimants “exercised restraint, kept their disputes and disputes in the right place, and put them on the path of consultation and management,” the embassy said.

However, rival claimant states including the Philippines and Vietnam have filed numerous diplomatic protests over the years amid increasingly assertive actions by China, including its transformation of seven disputed reefs into what are now island bases protected against missiles.

Diplomatic talks mitigated the occasional clashes but did not end them.

“The South China Sea is not a ‘hunting ground’ for countries outside the region, much less should it be a ‘struggle ground’ for major powers,” the Chinese statement said. “We strongly support all efforts that promote the peaceful settlement and management of disputes, and unequivocally reject words and actions that seek to inflame tensions and confrontation in the region.

Del Toro told the AP that would-be aggressors in the region should learn from the current unrest by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has faced sanctions from Western countries and their allies, who also supply weapons and humanitarian support for Ukrainians fighting invading Russian forces.

If ever such a level of aggression is committed in the Asia-Pacific, “I am confident that allies and partners will come together to do the same here in the Pacific,” Del Toro said.

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