Beijing rejects Pentagon’s criticism of military drills in S. China Sea

Clay Curtis
July 4, 2020

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said China's People's Liberation Army has been staging exercises off the Paracel Islands since July 1 and Chinese maritime officials have prohibited all vessels from navigating within the area of the maneuvers.

China's expanding military presence in the contested waters has anxious several of its neighbors, and Washington rejects Beijing's territorial claims to much of the region, including the Paracel Islands.

THE Philippine government expressed "concern" on Friday over China's conduct of military exercises in the waters off the Paracels, which are claimed by Vietnam, and reminded its Asian neighbor to respect the freedom of navigation of other countries.

China dismissed the US criticism of its drills on Friday and suggested the United States was to blame for increasing tensions. Spokesman Zhao Lijian said the drills are within the scope of China's sovereignty, adding that certain "non-regional countries" conducting military exercises in the sea are affecting the region's stability.

He further urged China to adhere to the rule of law and its commitment to global instruments such as the 2002 declaration of the conduct of the parties in the South China Sea.

On Wednesday, China began five days of drills in waters near the Paracel Islands, where Vietnam has competing claims, according to a June 27 announcement by the Maritime Safety Administration of Hainan, a large provincial island off China's southern coast.

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"The PRC's actions stand in contrast to its pledge to not militarize the South China Sea and the United States' vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted worldwide rules and norms", it read. The region is believed to have valuable oil and gas deposits.

Hang said Vietnam had contacted China and delivered a diplomatic note opposing the drills.

In April, a Chinese ship rammed and sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat near the Paracel Islands, notching up tensions between the two countries.

The department also said that it will continue to monitor the situation in disputed South China Sea.

It also said that the activities are a part of a long list of Chinese acts "to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbours in the South China Sea".

The USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan were carrying out operations and exercises in the South China Sea "to support a free and open Indo-Pacific", the navy said in a statement.

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