US de­stroyer’s in­tru­sion into Chi­nese waters un­ac­cept­able

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

The Foreign Min­istry has called the tres­pass­ing of a US mis­sile de­stroyer in China’s ter­ri­to­rial waters a “se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary provo­ca­tion”, and the Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense said the move has se­ri­ously un­der­mined the strate­gic mu­tual trust be­tween the two mil­i­taries. Such a re­sponse drives home the mes­sage that the United States is solely re­spon­si­ble for rais­ing ten­sions be­tween the two mil­i­taries and cast­ing a shadow over bi­lat­eral ties. In the sec­ond “free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion” op­er­a­tion con­ducted by the US Navy since US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took of­fice, the mis­sile de­stroyer USS Stethem tres­passed in China’s ter­ri­to­rial waters off the Xisha Is­lands on Sun­day.

Com­pared with such op­er­a­tions un­der the pre­vi­ous US ad­min­is­tra­tion, the one con­ducted on Sun­day is par­tic­u­larly alarm­ing as it took place in waters where ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes do not ex­ist.

The Xisha Is­lands are an in­her­ent part of Chi­nese ter­ri­tory. The Chi­nese govern­ment pro­mul­gated the base­line of the ter­ri­to­rial sea off the is­lands in 1996, and the rel­e­vant Chi­nese law has ex­plicit pro­vi­sions re­gard­ing foreign mil­i­tary ves­sels’ en­ter­ing China’s ter­ri­to­rial waters.

The US Navy can­not pre­tend these long estab­lished facts do not ex­ist. Its bla­tant act con­sti­tutes a se­ri­ous in­fringe­ment on China’s sovereignty.

It also threat­ens to un­der­mine the cur­rent hard-won trend of co­op­er­a­tion in the South China Sea, which has re­sulted in China and the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions com­plet­ing the draft­ing of a frame­work for a code of con­duct.

The lat­est provo­ca­tion shows Trump is yet to dis­card the strat­egy of stir­ring up con­fronta­tion in the South China Sea adopted by his pre­de­ces­sor. Such a prac­tice is both dan­ger­ous and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive be­cause it could eas­ily throw China-US re­la­tions off bal­ance and squan­der the fruit­ful re­sults achieved so far in ad­vanc­ing bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Trump reached an im­por­tant con­sen­sus when they met in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, in April, and since then mu­tual ef­forts have been made to forge a con­struc­tive part­ner­ship.

But against that general rosy pic­ture of bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, there have been in­creas­ing un­der­cur­rents of late, and these prompted Xi to say in a tele­phone conversation with Trump on Mon­day that bi­lat­eral ties are be­ing af­fected by some neg­a­tive fac­tors.

Xi told Trump that China and the US should stick to the prin­ci­ples of mu­tual re­spect and rec­i­proc­ity, con­cen­trate on co­op­er­a­tion and man­age and con­trol their dif­fer­ences. This points the way for both sides to an­chor bi­lat­eral ties on sta­ble ter­rain.

After all, with­out ac­com­mo­dat­ing each other’s core in­ter­ests and ma­jor con­cerns, the foun­da­tions for na­tion-to-na­tion ties will be any­thing but solid.

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