A state-run Chinese newspaper warned Tuesday that Beijing should prepare for conflict in the contested waters of the South China Sea. While Chinese government officials later tried to play down the editorial, they also held firm on previous statements that Beijing would not respect a July 12 international court ruling over territorial claims by China and the Philippines in the region, Reuters reported Tuesday.
“Washington has deployed two carrier battle groups around the South China Sea, and it wants to send a signal by flexing its muscles: As the biggest powerhouse in the region, it awaits China’s obedience,” said the Global Times’ editorial. “China hopes disputes can be resolved by talks, but it must be prepared for any military confrontation. This is common sense in international relations.”
The editorial in both the Chinese and English versions of the state-run Global Times comes as Beijing kicks off week-long military drills.
Beijing was quick to respond to the editorial by reiterating past claims that China wants to see a peaceful solution to the area’s contested territorial claims, but would not accept the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
“China will work with ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries to safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news briefing Tuesday. “We’ve pointed out many times recently that as for the relevant dispute, China does not accept any decision imposed by a third party as a means of resolution, nor any solution plan that is forced upon China.”
The Philippines filed its case in 2013 over whether or not it could exploit waters near islands and reefs Manila claims in the South China Sea. The ruling could have major consequences for national claims in the region.
Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have all laid claim to parts of the South China Sea. The U.S. has continued freedom of navigation patrols in the waters to Beijing’s ire. Over $5 trillion worth of trade passes through the resource rich waters of the South China Sea every year. China’s week long military drills in the contested waters kicked off Tuesday and the government described them as routine exercises.