US warships' provocative sailing in the South China Sea will only serve to force China to strengthen its defense capability, said analysts after the USS Hopper, a guided missile destroyer, came within 12 nautical miles of Huangyan Island on Wednesday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang on Saturday vowed "necessary measures" will be undertaken to safeguard the country's sovereignty. Lu said the US action has broken basic protocols of international relations, voicing China's strong dissatisfaction.
Wu Qian, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, also warned the US on Saturday not to "cause trouble out of nothing."
According to Wu, Chinese missile destroyer Huangshan immediately conducted an identification and warning process to drive USS Hopper away on Wednesday.
This is the first provocative act in the South China Sea by the US navy in 2018, and is very likely not to be the last, said An Gang, a senior research fellow at the Pangoal Institution, a Beijing-based think tank, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Even though China now has overwhelming strategic deterrence capability in the South China Sea, the US, with assistance from allies like Japan, Australia and Singapore, won't end provocations easily, said An.
Under joint efforts by China and the ASEAN, the situation around the South China Sea is becoming more stable and more positive, Wu said.
The deliberately provocative act by the US has threatened China's sovereignty and security, harmed regional peace and stability, and is counterproductive to the stable development of relations between the two countries and their militaries, Wu stated.
China and ASEAN countries have agreed to use negotiations to solve problems, so the US and other non-regional forces no longer have an excuse to get involved in the South China Sea issue to some extent, An said. "But the stance of some regional countries, like the Philippines and Vietnam, is not that important to the US. If they want to be used by the US, the US will use them, if they don't agree with the US, the US will ignore them and do what it wants."
China wants to explore the region peacefully and jointly with regional states, and share its facilities with the neighbors, but the US' provocation can only force China to strengthen its defense capacity, and then China will gain de facto dominance in the region step by step, An suggested.
The Chinese military will continue to fulfill its defensive duties and intensify its patrols in the air and at sea, in order to firmly safeguard the sovereignty and security of the country and regional peace and stability, said Wu of the defense ministry.
"China will take necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty," Lu said.
Militarily, the US' provocation is pointless, because China's navy is capable of dealing with it anytime, said Zhang Ye, a research fellow at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Naval Research Institute. "In order to safeguard the hard-won stability of the region, PLA warships need to act cautiously when they engage US naval vessels. China can show a tougher stance on the diplomatic front."
China has multiple countermeasures it could take, such as speeding up the construction of its islands, including reclamation of Huangyan Island, to improving its law-enforcement and military capability in the region. "The US can do nothing to stop us," said Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator.
"China respects and safeguards freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea for all countries in accordance with international law, but resolutely opposes any country's move to impair China's sovereignty and security interests in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight," foreign ministry spokesperson Lu said.