South China Sea
Tension in the South China Sea with several nations, including China, laying claims to different areas.
China’s Foreign Ministry has called in a senior US diplomat to protest against remarks by the State Department over rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

The Assistant Foreign Minister, Zhang Kunsheng, summoned the deputy chief of mission, Robert Wang, to make ”solemn representations” of Chinese concerns ”to the top US leadership immediately,” the ministry said.

Washington has accused Beijing of raising tensions in the region after it announced last week the establishment of the tiny city of Sansha and a garrison on an island in the disputed Paracel chain. The move has infuriated Vietnam and the Philippines, who accuse Beijing of stepping up harassment at sea.

A US State Department spokesman, Patrick Ventrell, had said China’s establishment of the city and garrison ran ”counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences” and risked escalating tensions.

But China’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the US statement, voicing its ”strong dissatisfaction and opposition”, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The US criticism ”completely ignored the facts, deliberately confounded right and wrong, and sent a seriously wrong signal, which is not conducive to the efforts safeguarding the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific region,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

The establishment of Sansha was ”completely within China’s sovereignty”, he said.

He accused the US of ”selective blindness” as ”certain countries” escalated disputes by opening oil and gas blocks, threatening Chinese fishermen, and illegally appropriating territory.

Also on Saturday, a commentary on Xinhua attacked the US accusations as ”groundless and irresponsible” and urged Washington to ”draw back its meddling hand from the South China Sea disputes”.

Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, home to shipping lanes and believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.

Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have vying claims to different areas.

The new city administers the Spratly, Paracel and Macclesfield Bank archipelagos and surrounding waters, Beijing announced on June 21. China already controls the Paracels and reefs and shoals within the nearby Spratlys, according to the International Crisis Group.

The Philippines recently offered oil and gas exploration contracts in a disputed area of the South China Sea off the coast of its western island of Palawan.

It also entered into a tense stand-off over the Scarborough Shoal in April when Chinese patrol vessels blocked the Philippine navy from arresting its fishermen.

Vietnam attracted China’s ire in June after it adopted a law that placed the Spratly islands under Hanoi’s sovereignty.

Mr Ventrell said in a statement the administration was ”concerned by the increase in tensions in the South China Sea and are monitoring the situation closely”.

The establishment of the garrison and Sansha ”runs counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region,” he said.

And in a reference to what he said was ”confrontational rhetoric” and incidents at sea, he said: ”The United States urges all parties to take steps to lower tensions.”


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