The territorial dispute over South China Sea has become “overheated” because of “provocations” by certain countries, China said Sunday seemingly lashing out at the United States. Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo made the remarks at a global defense summit in Singapore.
“Countries outside should play a constructive role in this regard, not the other way around. The South China Sea issue has become overheated because of the provocations of certain countries for their own selfish interests,” Sun told the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.
Sun’s comments came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier in the day that Washington would consider any Chinese setting up of an air defense identification zone over the disputed region to be a “provocative and destabilizing act.” Kerry had also urged China not to move unilaterally over the dispute triggering possible provocations.
Beijing is reportedly planning to set up the ADIZ over the South China Sea after it imposed a similar zone in 2013 over eight uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, attracting criticism from Japan, South Korea and the U.S.
“We do not make trouble but we have no fear of trouble,” Sun said.
On Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at the summit that Beijing is risking itself to build “a Great Wall of self-isolation” because of its growing military presence in the region. Stronger bilateral defense cooperation would not result in China’s risk of self-isolation, Carter said.
During Sunday’s summit, Sun reiterated China’s stance on the territorial dispute saying his country is ready to seek a peaceful solution. However, he blamed Washington for having a “Cold War” mentality.
“I reiterate that our policy on the South China Sea remains unchanged. China has wisdom and the patience to resolve the disputes through peaceful negotiations. We also believe other countries concerned have the same wisdom and the patience to walk on the path of peace along with China,” Sun reportedly said.
“Any countries not directly concerned are not allowed to sabotage our path of peace for selfish gains,” Sun said.
The long-debated region of South China Sea has been largely claimed by Beijing. But, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also laid claims to the waters, through which over $5 trillion of maritime trade passes annually.
Beijing’s assertiveness in the disputed region has attracted criticism from several countries, including the U.S., which accuses China of militarizing the region. However, China has defended its growing military presence saying it does not have any intentions of starting a conflict and that its operations will add to the contested region’s safety.