WASHINGTON — Chinese ambassador to the United States on Oct 27 slammed a US warship’s sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands in South China Sea as a serious provocation that has exposed the absurdity and hypocrisy of the US position on the South China Sea issue.
Cui Tiankai was reacting to the US destroyer USS Lassen’s intrusion earlier on Oct 27. China has officially lodged a strong protest to the US government over the provocative move.
“I think what the United States is doing is a very serious provocation politically and militarily,” Cui said in an interview with the US cable news network CNN.
“It’s a clear attempt to escalate the situation and to militarize the region. So we’re very concerned about that,” said the veteran diplomat.
Cui criticized the US for taking an “absurd and even hypocritical position” to ask others not to militarize the region while itself is sending military vessels there so frequently.
He strongly refuted the US claim that it was exercising so-called freedom of navigation rights in the region, pointing out that the US move was taken “in total disregard of the international law.”
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has clear provision about the safety of navigation, freedom of navigation and innocent transit, Cui said, noting the United States is not a party to the global treaty.
“What the US is doing is totally against the provision, the letter and spirit of the convention,” he said.
The Chinese envoy stressed that China has a long-standing sovereignty over the islands in the region and the waters surrounding them.
He was responding to the US claim that it does not recognize the territorial rights of China’s man-made land features in the South China Sea.
Cui said that, in view of the US actions, China has to seriously think about beefing up its defense capabilities in the region.
“We have to make sure we have sufficient means to safeguard our sovereignty there, to protect our lawful rights there, and ... maintain peace and stability there, and nobody will have any more illusion that it could continue to provoke,” he said.
Cui stressed that whatever is happening now will not change China’s position on its sovereignty in the region or weaken its determination to safeguard its sovereignty and seek a peaceful solution to the territorial disputes with countries concerned.
“And it certainly will not weaken our position and commitment to developing a healthy and strong relationship with the United States. But this is a two-way track and we have to have reciprocal actions from the United States,” he added.