Bei­jing con­cerned by Pen­tagon plan

US re­port­edly pon­ders sail­ing along 12-mile ter­ri­to­rial limit with Navy ships

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By MO JINGXI in Bei­jing mo­jingxi@chi­

Bei­jing ex­pressed “se­ri­ous con­cern” on Wed­nes­day over a re­ported Pen­tagon plan to send mil­i­tary ships and air­craft into ar­eas near South China Sea reefs and de­manded that Wash­ing­ton is­sue an im­me­di­ate clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

“We re­quest the par­ties con­cerned to speak and act in a cau­tious man­ner, not to take any risky or provoca­tive ac­tions, and to main­tain re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity,” For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said at a news con­fer­ence in Bei­jing.

On Mon­day, a Chi­nese frigate mon­i­tored the ac­tiv­i­ties of a US com­bat ship in wa­ters near Nan­wei Is­land in the South China Sea.

Hua said China will con­tinue its sur­veil­lance of the wa­ters and airspace to en­sure ter­ri­to­rial sovereignty and safety.

Ac­cord­ing to a Wall Street Jour­nal re­port, US Sec­re­tary of De­fense Ash Carter asked his staff to look at op­tions that in­clude fly­ing navy sur­veil­lance air­craft over South China Sea is­lands and po­si­tion­ing ships as close as 12 nau­ti­cal miles from Chi­nese reefs. Twelve nau­ti­cal miles is the United Na­tions’ stan­dard for the breadth of a coun­try’s ter­ri­to­rial sea, mea­sured from spe­cific base­lines.

“We are con­sid­er­ing how to demon­strate free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in an area that is crit­i­cal to world trade,” a US of­fi­cial was quoted by Reuters as say­ing.

China has al­ways up­held free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in the South China Sea, Hua said, but that doesn’t mean any for­eign mil­i­tary ship or plane can en­ter the ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters or airspace of an­other coun­try at will.

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry is due to visit China this week­end to pre­pare for key talks later this year, in­clud­ing the an­nual US-China Strate­gic and Eco­nomic Dia­logue. The South China Sea could be a topic of his dis­cus­sion with se­nior Chi­nese lead­ers.

Chen Qinghong, a Southeast Asian stud­ies re­searcher at the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, said that Wash­ing­ton, which is wor­ried about China’s con­struc­tion work on is­lands in the South China Sea, is try­ing to stir up trou­ble in the area.

“Once China does any­thing in re­sponse, the US might use it as an ex­cuse to jus­tify its chal­lenge to China’s ter­ri­to­rial sovereignty in the South China Sea,” Chen said.

More­over, he said, free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion should not be as­serted in such a way.

“It is quite pos­si­ble for for­eign mil­i­tary ships to con­duct se­cret in­ves­ti­ga­tions near the is­lands, which could pose a risk for other coun­tries,” he said.

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