Chinese diplomat limits navigation freedom
Mainland China respects freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea but will not allow any foreign government to invoke that right so its military ships and planes can intrude in Beijing’s territory, the Chinese ambassador said.
Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said late Tuesday that Chinese forces warned a U. S. Navy P- 8A not to intrude when the warplane approached a Chinese- occupied area in the South China Sea’s disputed Spratly Islands in May. A CNN reporter who was on board the plane, which had taken off from the Philippines, reported the incident then.
“We just gave them warnings, be careful, not to intrude,” Zhao told reporters on the sidelines of a diplomatic event in Manila.
Washington, however, does not recognize any territorial claim by any country in the South China Sea, a policy that collides with the position of China, which claims virtually the entire sea.
When asked why China shooed away the U.S. Navy plane when it has pledged to respect freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, Zhao outlined the limits in China’s view.
“Freedom of navigation does not mean to allow other countries to intrude into the airspace or the sea which is sovereign. No country will allow that,” Zhao said. “We say freedom of navigation must be observed in accordance with international law. No freedom of navigation for warships and airplanes.”
Zhao also repeated an earlier pronouncement by Beijing that China’s use of land reclamation to create new islands at a number of disputed Spratly reefs has ended. China, he said, would now start constructing facilities to support freedom of navigation, search and rescue efforts when accidents occur, and scientific research.
“When we say we’re going to stop reclamation, we mean it,” Zhao said.
He acknowledged that “necessary defense facilities” would also be constructed.