Beijing once again protested against the Pentagon’s habit of sending patrols close to Chinese controlled reefs and islands in the South China Sea and pressured Washington to justify its presence in the disputed region.
Officials from the Chinese Military published a report protesting last week’s deployment of the USS Hopper destroyer which sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, a ring-shaped coral reef west of the Philippines. The same reef is a part of a long dispute between China and Manilla.
In recent months, China has confirmed twice that a U.S. patrol was sailing near their territories.
Reuters reports that Bonnie Glaser, a security expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said while the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump had a policy of keeping the patrols regular but low key, China was willing to publicly exploit them to further their military ends.
“It is difficult to conclude otherwise. Even as it pushes ahead with these (patrols), I don’t think the Trump administration has really come to terms with what it will tolerate from China in the South China Sea, and what it simply won’t accept, and Beijing seems to grasp this,” Glaser said.
Chinese foreign ministry official Lu Kang said during several official speeches that China would take “necessary measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty” in the resource-rich sea.
According to Reuters, some regional diplomats and security analysts believe that will involve increased Chinese deployments and the quicker militarisation of China’s expanded facilities across the Spratlys archipelago. While U.S. officials did not target China in their comments, couching freedom-of-navigation patrols as a “routine” assertion of international law, Beijing was quick to cast Washington as the provocateur.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party’s official newspaper People’s Daily on Monday condemned Washington of upsetting recent peace and co-operation and “wantonly provoking trouble”, adding that China must now strengthen its military presence in surrounding seas.