China has legitimacy to build and use South China Sea islands: experts

Global Times
Yao Jianing

China has the capability to defend and explore its territory regardless of what position the U.S. holds, said Chinese experts after the White House hinted at a tougher U.S. position on the South China Sea.

"Tillerson's statement from two weeks ago was too arrogant. If the new U.S. administration follows this route and adopts this attitude, then it will lead to a war between China and the U.S., and that would mean the end of U.S. history or even all of humanity," Jin Canrong, associate dean of the Department of International Studies at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

At a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the U.S. would "make sure that we protect our interests" in the South China Sea, a resource-rich trade route through which about $4.5 trillion of trade passes every year.

Spicer's comments came after Rex Tillerson, Trump's nominee for U.S. Secretary of State, likened China's island-building activities in the South China Sea to "Russia's taking of Crimea" and "China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea" on January 11.

"They are taking territory or control or declaring control of territories that are not rightfully China's," Tillerson said.

"Although the U.S. is planning to send three aircraft-carriers to the West Pacific region, if they invade the South China Sea, we have the ability to destroy them all even they send 10, let alone three," Jin said.

"The islands with airports that we have built in the area are 'unsinkable aircraft carriers' and compare to U.S. aircraft carriers, they have more advantage to some extent;" China has capability to protect its own territory, said Major General Luo Yuan, a vice president with the China Strategic Culture Promotion Association.

"It's a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we're going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country," Spicer said.

"Tillerson was the chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil, and the South China Sea has rich natural gas resources," so if the oil tycoon like him can participate the U.S. diplomatic decision making, it is not a surprise that he will risk the U.S.' national security and Sino-U.S. relations in exchange for his own personal interest, Xu Liping, a research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday.

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