Be cau­tious, China urges the US

Bei­jing says it will pro­tect its ter­ri­tory af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s threats over mar­itime dis­putes

China Daily European Weekly - - China News - By MO JINGXI, AN BAIJIE and WANG QINGYUN Con­tact the writ­ers at an­bai­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China called on the United States on Jan 24 to re­spect facts and “speak and be­have with cau­tion” af­ter the new US ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump hinted it would take a tougher stance on the South China Sea.

“China’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect its own ter­ri­tory and sovereignty will re­main un­changed, re­gard­less of what other coun­tries say or what changes oc­cur,” For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said at a news con­fer­ence in Bei­jing.

China will firmly safe­guard its mar­itime sovereignty, as it holds talks with coun­tries di­rectly in­volved, to main­tain sta­bil­ity in the re­gion, she said. Hua had been asked to re­spond to White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s com­ment on Jan 23 that “the US would make sure that we pro­tect our in­ter­ests” in the South China Sea.

On Jan 11, Trump’s sec­re­tary of state nom­i­nee Rex Tiller­son said that China should be de­nied ac­cess to the South China Sea is­lands.

Hua, when asked whether China wor­ried that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would take fur­ther steps re­gard­ing the sea, said that China is not the only coun­try con­cerned about that.

“China’s po­si­tion on the South China Sea is con­sis­tent, and our ac­tions are jus­ti­fied,” she said.

Ten­sions have cooled over the South China Sea is­sue since China and other coun­tries in­volved, in­clud­ing the Philip­pines, agreed to peace­fully solve dis­putes through ne­go­ti­a­tions.

In Oc­to­ber, Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte made a state visit to China, dur­ing which the two na­tions agreed to re­store bi­lat­eral ties that had been jeop­ar­dized by the rul­ing of an ar­bi­tra­tion uni­lat­er­ally launched by his pre­de­ces­sor, Benigno Aquino III.

“Any re­spon­si­ble coun­try should be glad to see this trend, and play a pos­i­tive role in pro­mot­ing re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity,” Hua said on Jan 24.

Li Haidong, a pro­fes­sor of US stud­ies at China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity, said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­ti­tude to­ward the South China Sea is sim­i­lar to his pre­de­ces­sor’s — namely, em­pha­siz­ing dis­putes there.

“While Obama dealt with it in so-called mul­ti­lat­eral and le­gal ways, Trump might try to get rough and try to over­whelm China with force there,” he said. The South China Sea will con­tinue to be an in­creas­ingly dis­puted area be­tween the two coun­tries, he spec­u­lated.

How­ever, Li said, it re­mained to be seen whether Washington would fol­low up on Tiller­son’s pro­posal be­cause of “Trump’s un­pre­dictabil­ity and the dif­fer­ent opin­ions within the Cabi­net”.

“The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion might make an ad­just­ment, adopt a more prac­ti­cal China pol­icy af­ter six months, when it sees it has failed to force China to con­cede to its ag­gres­sive man­ner re­gard­ing is­sues Washington be­lieves are crit­i­cal,” he added.

Teng Jian­qun, a se­nior US stud­ies re­searcher at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will con­tinue to test China on var­i­ous is­sues, in­clud­ing trade and se­cu­rity, but China will never com­pro­mise on ter­ri­to­rial is­sues. Wang Qingyun con­tributed to this story.

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