| 29 May 2024, Wednesday |

U.S. and China trade barbs over South China Sea

Tuesday, the Chinese embassy in Manila condemned Washington’s “unfounded claims” that it claimed were intended to incite conflict in the South China Sea and accused Washington of attempting to drive a wedge between Beijing and Manila.

The tense relationship between China and the United States has numerous flashpoints, and the South China Sea has become one of them. Washington rejects Beijing’s alleged illegal territorial claims in the resource-rich waters.

Beijing was reacting to a Dec. 19 statement by U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price voicing concern over the reported “escalating swarms” of Chinese vessels in the disputed waterway and an incident involving a floating piece of rocket.

Price said China’s actions “reflect continuing disregard for other South China Sea claimants and states lawfully operating in the region”. He reiterated that the United States stands by the Philippines in upholding rules-based international order.

In a statement, China’s embassy in Manila said it was “only natural for neighbours to have differences”, but added:

“The U.S. keeps meddling in the South China Sea disputes and trying to drive wedges between countries in the region, creating tensions and harming regional peace and stability.

“What the U.S. has done is not to help anyone but to serve its own geopolitical interests,” it said.

China claims vast swathes of the South China Sea that overlap with the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines. Trillions of dollars in trade flow every year through the waterway, which also contains rich fishing grounds and gas fields.

The “reported swarming” of Chinese vessels in a reef and shoal inside its exclusive economic zone prompted the Philippines to express “grave worry” last week.

That occurred shortly after the foreign ministry lodged a diplomatic protest regarding the Chinese coastguard ship that, according to the Philippine military, used force to recover a piece of rocket that was floating in the water while being pulled by a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea.

China has refuted claims that it forcibly seized the object, which it claimed to be pieces of a spacecraft’s protective nose cone casing last month.

  • Reuters