Beijing : China warned its rivals on Wednesday against turning the South China Sea into a “cradle of war” and threatened to create an air defense zone, after its claims to the strategically vital waters were declared invalid.
China reacted furiously to Tuesday’s decision, insisting on its historical rights over the sea while launching a volley of thinly veiled warnings to the United States and other critical nations. “Do not turn the South China Sea into a cradle of war,” vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters in Beijing, as he described the ruling as waste paper.
“China’s aim is to turn the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation,” Liu said but added that China also had “the right” to establish an air defense zone over the sea, which would give the Chinese military authority over foreign aircraft. A similar zone set up in 2013 in the East China Sea riled Japan, the United States and its allies.
“Whether we need to set up one in the South China Sea depends on the level of threat we perceive,” he said. “We hope other countries will not take the chance to blackmail China,” he added. Experts said that among the other South Sea claimant countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, Hanoi will most likely challenge China’s maritime territories. Owing to a strong nationalistic sentiment, Vietnam is unlikely to back off on its claims either, experts noted. Emboldened by the favourable ruling the Philippines received, the possibility of Vietnam seeking a similar arbitration cannot be ruled out.
Chinese official media and think-tanks are worried over this possible “domino effect” with surge in claims by other countries to press for their share of the South China Sea. The Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, was blunt. “It will certainly intensify conflicts and even confrontation,” Cui said in Washington. China justifies its sovereignty claims by saying it was the first to have discovered, named and exploited the sea, and outlines its claims for most of the waterway using a vague map made up of nine dashes that emerged in the 1940s. Those claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
China tests new airfields
Beijing : A defiant China on Wednesday successfully tested two new airfields in the disputed islands in the South China Sea, a day after an international tribunal struck down Beijing claims over the area. With this the number of airfields open to civil aircraft in the archipelago has risen to three, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.