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.

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