China slams US warning on South China Sea: The Chinese government on Monday condemned the United States Pacific air force commander for “irresponsible remarks” following his warning that it would be provocative if China declared an air defense zone over the South China Sea.
The Chinese response heightens the ongoing war of words, which also involves the Philippines and Japan, over territorial disputes in the South China and East China Seas.
In November, China set up an “air defence identification zone” (ADIZ) over waters in the East China Sea that included contested islands claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo, which Washington condemned.
In this context, US Pacific Air Force Commander Herbert Carlisle on Sunday said it would be “very provocative” for China to do the same to assert territorial claims in the South China Sea – something the US and other nations from the Asia-Pacific region fear may happen.
Though China claims almost the entire South China Sea, even areas much closer to other nations, portions of the sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying fired back at the US on Monday, saying “setting up an air defence identification zone is a reasonable right for any sovereign state to exercise, according to reports.
“Relevant officials should reflect carefully on what standing they have to make any irresponsible remarks about China’s exercising its own reasonable and legitimate rights.”
She pointed out that the US and other countries also have ADIZs, and asked, “Why can only China not (do the same)?”
“We hope that relevant countries and officials can stop making irresponsible comments,” she added.
China requires aircraft flying through its ADIZ in the East China Sea to identify themselves and maintain communication with Chinese officials, but the ADIZ is not a claim of sovereignty.
Carlisle also criticised actions by Japan and the Philippines, saying that countries needed to act to de-escalate tensions.
“Some of the things, in particular that have been done by Japan, they need to think hard about what is provocative to other nations,” the commander said in an interview with the US news agency Bloomberg in Singapore.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino last week compared China’s efforts to seize disputed territories in the seas to Adolf Hitler’s actions leading up to World War II, urging world leaders not to repeat the same mistake of appeasement. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei dismissed the comments as “unreasonable”.
Tension between China and Japan have intensified in recent months as they slammed one another over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The war of words has involved China’s grievances over Japan’s history of imperial aggression up until its 1945 defeat in World War II, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s December visit to the Yasukuni shrine which commemorates Japanese war dead, including several officers executed as war criminals at the end of the Second World War.