China says its activities in disputed regions of the South China Sea are no different than U.S. military deployments in Hawaii, ahead of a visit to the U.S. by Foreign Minister Wang Yi starting Tuesday.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson told reporters Monday that China hoped that recent reports that it had deployed surface-to-air missiles on the man-made islands, which it had pledged not to militarize, would not be used by the U.S. as a "pretext to make a fuss," Reuters reported.
"The U.S. is not involved in the South China Sea dispute, and this is not and should not become a problem between China and the United States," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.
"China deploying necessary national defense facilities on its own territory is no different from the U.S. deploying defense facilities on Hawaii," she added.
The U.S. has been aggressively challenging China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, which are disputed by many of its Asian neighbors. A senior U.S. naval officer on Monday urged Australia to undertake so-called “freedom of navigation” missions within 12 miles of Chinese-claimed islands in the region, to underscore what it sees as the illegitimacy of China's territorial claims.
U.S. warships and aircraft have recently conducted missions that take them through territory claimed by China but not recognized by the international community as part of the country's sovereign territory. When passing through disputed parts of the South China Sea U.S. aircraft and boats have drawn a sharp response from China's military, prompting warnings that they were entering a “military alert zone” and demanding that they leave immediately. All such demands have been ignored.
Wang will meet Secretary of State John Kerry, between Tuesday and Thursday, in the U.S. The pair are expected to discuss a wide range of topics during the visit, including sanctions on North Korea, as well as the country's recent nuclear test and rocket launch, and China's opposition to U.S. plans to deploy an advanced missile defense system in the region.
Kerry told reporters last week: "There is every evidence, every day, that there has been an increase of militarization of one kind or another. It's of a serious concern. We have said repeatedly with respect to China that the standard that should be applied to all countries with respect to the South China Sea is no militarization," he added, stating that he expected "further very serious conversations" on the issue.