China, US assert rights after exchange over S China Sea Associated PressFILE - In this May 20, 2014 file photo, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing, China. China said Thursday, May 21, 2015 it is entitled to keep watch over airspace and seas surrounding artificial islands it created in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, following a reported exchange in which its navy warned off a U.S. surveillance plane.
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Speaking at a regular daily briefing, Hong reiterated Beijing's insistence on its indisputable sovereignty over the islands it has created by piling sand on top of atolls and reefs. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
BEIJING (AP) — China said Thursday it is entitled to keep watch over airspace and seas surrounding artificial islands it created in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, following an exchange in which its navy warned off a U.S. surveillance plane. The United States said its aerial patrolling was in accordance with international law and "no one in their right mind" would try to stop it.
Neither side says it wants confrontation with the other, but as China seeks to assert its expansive claims to the South China Sea, the U.S. is pushing back and trying to demonstrate that China's massive land reclamation does not give it territorial rights.
A news crew from CNN reported it witnessed an incident Wednesday in which a Chinese navy dispatcher demanded eight times that a U.S. Navy P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft leave the area as it flew over Fiery Cross Reef, where China has conducted extensive reclamation work. It said the U.S. crew responded that they were flying through international airspace, to which the Chinese dispatcher answered: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!"
The Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank posted more video Thursday of the aerial patrol above the Spratly island chain which it said had been released by the U.S. Navy.
Speaking at a regular daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reiterated Beijing's insistence on its indisputable sovereignty over the islands it has created by piling sand on top of atolls and reefs.
While saying he had no information about the reported exchange, Hong said China was "entitled to the surveillance over related airspace and sea areas so as to maintain national security and avoid any maritime accidents.
"We hope relevant countries respect China's sovereignty over the South China Sea, abandon actions that may intensify controversies and play a constructive role for regional peace and stability," Hong told reporters.
In Washington, Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said the flight of a U.S. reconnaissance plane in international airspace over the South China Sea was a regular and appropriate occurrence. He said the U.S. will seek to preserve the ability of not just the United States but all countries to exercise their rights to freedom of navigation and overflight.
"Nobody in their right mind is going to try to stop the U.S. Navy from operating. That would not be a good step. But it's not enough that a U.S. military plane can overfly international waters, even if there is a challenge or a hail and query" from the Chinese military, he said.
"We believe that every country and all civilian actors also should have unfettered access to international waters and international airspace," he said.
China's construction has intensified frictions among competing parties in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims virtually in its entirety along with its scattered island groups. The area that is home to some of the world's busiest commercial shipping routes is also claimed in part or in whole by the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The U.S. and most of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations want a halt to the projects, which they suspect are aimed at building islands and other land features over which China can claim sovereignty and base military assets.
The U.S. says it takes no position on the sovereignty claims but insists they must be negotiated. Washington also says ensuring maritime safety and access is a U.S. national security priority.
China is also at odds with Japan over ownership of a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing, leading to increased activity by Chinese planes and ships in the area, which lies between Taiwan and Okinawa.
Both sides have accused the other of operating dangerously, prompting fears of an incident such as the 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. surveillance plane in which the Chinese pilot was killed and the American crew detained on China's Hainan island.
Also Thursday, the Chinese air force announced its latest offshore training exercises in the western Pacific as part of efforts to boost its combat preparedness.
People's Liberation Army Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke said the exercises were held in international airspace but gave no specifics. In its report on the drills, state broadcaster CCTV showed a video of Xian H-6 twin-engine bombers, a Chinese version of Russia's Tupelov Tu-16, in flight and landing at an air base, although it wasn't clear when the video was shot.
U.S. vows to continue patrols after China warns spy plane Reuters
Poseidon Over the China Sea The Wall Street Journal
U.S., China set for high-stakes rivalry in skies above South China Sea Reuters
U.S. Admiral Calls on China to Explain South China Sea Land Reclamation The Wall Street Journal
Pentagon weighs sending planes, ships near disputed South China Sea reefs Reuters
U.S., China clash over disputed South China Sea Reuters
Despite tension, Xi says U.S.-China relations are stable Reuters
Beijing says Philippines, U.S. 'exaggerate China threat' in sea dispute Reuters
U.S. Releases Video Of China Constructing New Islands In The South China Sea Huffington Post
U.S., China Clash Over Development In South China Sea Huffington Post
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
U.S. says South China Sea reclamations stoke instability
JAKARTA (Reuters) - China's land reclamation around reefs in the disputed South China Sea is undermining freedom and stability, and risks provoking tension that could even lead to conflict, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a conference in Jakarta.
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, its claims overlapping with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Recent satellite images suggest China has made rapid progress in filling in land in contested territory in the Spratly islands and in building an airstrip suitable for military use and that it may be planning another.
"As China seeks to make sovereign land out of sandcastles and redraw maritime boundaries, it is eroding regional trust and undermining investor confidence," Blinken said on Wednesday.
"Its behavior threatens to set a new precedent whereby larger countries are free to intimidate smaller ones, and that provokes tensions, instability and can even lead to conflict."
The United States and China clashed over the dispute on Saturday, when visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to take action to reduce tension. China said its determination to protect its interests was "as hard as a rock".
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Fiery Cross Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Asked about Blinken's remarks, China's Foreign Ministry demanded on Thursday that the United States abide by the principle of not taking sides on the South China Sea, and said his comments damaged trust in the region.
"The U.S. assumptions are groundless," ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing.
Blinken said the previous day that competing claims had to be handled "diplomatically".
"We don't take sides but we strongly oppose actions that aim to advance a claim by force or coercion," he said.
"We will continue to encourage all claimants to resolve their differences in accordance with international norms."
The territorial dispute is seen by many as one of Asia's most dangerous hot spots, posing risks that it could result in conflict as countries stake their claims.