Chinese defense ministry says navigation ‘legal and reasonable’
Tensions in the South and East China Seas continued to rise following last week's security summit in Singapore and ahead of an international court ruling on a South China Sea arbitration case filed by the Philippines.
Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua dismissed Japanese protests over a Chinese warship's entry in waters near the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, China Central Television reported Friday.
Japan summoned the Chinese ambassador on Thursday after reports that a Chinese and three Russian warships had entered what Japan called the "contiguous zones" near the Diaoyu Islands almost at the same time.
Calling the navigation "legal and reasonable," the Chinese defense ministry said Thursday that "China's naval ships have every right to navigate in waters under its jurisdiction, and no other country has the right to make thoughtless remarks about this."
The move came ahead of a large-scale joint military drill involving the US, Japan and India over eight days from June 10 in the western Pacific, Reuters reported.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei on Wednesday told a regular press conference that "it is hoped that this drill is conducive to regional peace, security and stability."
Hong also responded to a US claim on Tuesday to China's "unsafe" interception of a US reconnaissance plane over the East China Sea, noting that "the US' frequent reconnaissance over Chinese waters, which severely undermines China's maritime and air safety, is the real source of danger."
Bringing the dispute between China and the Philippines to the Permanent Court of Arbitration would give the US "the leverage to continue its provocative patrols in the South China Sea," Rod Kapunan, a Philippine columnist, wrote in an article published Saturday in The Standard, a Manila-based English-language newspaper.
"Nobody would believe that its continued patrols in the area are to secure freedom of navigation. Rather, the whole military infrastructure it built would be exposed as a façade to contain China," Kapunan added.
Last week, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that Paris will urge European navies to ensure a "regular and visible" presence in the South China Sea, the Singapore-based Straits Times reported.
Besides France, Canada also pledged to enhance its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the newspaper.
The recent frequent military activities in the South China Sea by countries outside the region contributed to observers' concern over whether the "Eight-Power Allied Forces" might reappear in this region, experts warned.
"If it happens, it would send a clear warning to the world and to China," said Liu Zhiqin, a senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, adding that the Chinese people will not forget the invasion of Western powers in the 19th century.