MANILA, Philippines – China took strong exception to the latest statements from United States Defense chief James Mattis assailing Beijing militarization of man-made islands on the West Philippine Sea.
Mattis made the remarks during his speech at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore last Saturday, June 3.
While Mattis courted China’s support in restraining North Korea’s continuing threats with its nuclear missile program, the US official also made it clear that there’s a lot more between Beijing and Washington “than just two issues.”
“We are working with China on North Korea because that is also a problem for China,” said Mattis.
“We oppose countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims. We cannot and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo,” he added later in his speech.
In a recent press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying expressed her dissatisfaction opposition to Mattis’ ‘irresponsible’ statement.
The Chinese official maintained Beijing’s position that it “respects and safeguards all countries’ freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea under international law but definitely opposes a certain country’s show of force in the South China Sea under the pretext of navigation and overflight freedom, challenging and threatening China’s sovereignty and security.”
Hua said the facilities built on the islands are for the purposes of improving the lives of people living there, as well as for defending its territory.
She also noted the efforts between China and the Philippines in reaching consensus in ‘properly managing’ the territorial disputes including the arbitration court ruling.
However, she slammed ‘certain countries’ out of the region, supposedly with ulterior motives, for insisting on making ‘erroneous’ remarks.
“The Chinese side is firmly opposed to that and urges relevant parties to stop their irresponsible remarks, fully respect regional countries’ efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and play a constructive role to that end,” the Chinese official added.