“Conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea is counterproductive to easing tensions and maintaining stability,” United States Department of Defense said condemning People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s military exercises, including the firing of ballistic missiles, around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea on August 23-29.
“The PRC’s actions, including missile tests, further destabilize the situation in the South China Sea. Such exercises also violate PRC commitments under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to avoid activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, and call into question its motivations with ongoing negotiations for a Code of Conduct between China and ASEAN,” the Pentagon said.
It added that China’s actions is in contrast to its pledge to not militarize the South China Sea and are in contrast to the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
“This military exercise is the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbors in the South China Sea,” the US department said.
It noted that it “alerted the PRC in July that we would continue to monitor the situation with the expectation that the PRC will reduce its militarization and coercion of its neighbors in the South China Sea. The PRC chose to escalate its exercise activities by firing ballistic missiles.”
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said “relevant training activities near the Xisha (Paracel) Islands in the South China Sea are routine arrangements conducted by the Chinese military off China’s coast. They are not targeted at any country and have nothing to do with the South China Sea disputes.”
He further noted that “the US has frequently dispatched in large numbers advanced warships, fighter jets and reconnaissance aircraft all the way to the South China Sea to project its power and engage in military provocations, undermining China’s sovereignty and security interests as well as the normal order of navigation in the South China Sea.”
“The US has become the saboteur and troublemaker of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Zhao said. “The US side should stop stirring up trouble and causing discord in the South China Sea and play a constructive role in safeguarding regional peace and stability.”