THE CHINESE government has accused the United States of taking provocative actions aimed to destabilize the situation in the disputed South China Sea (SCS), citing US Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller’s recent “groundless accusations” against China.
“It is the US that has taken provocative actions increasingly, with the purpose of destabilizing the SCS and hijacking regional countries onto its chariot to serve its own domestic politics and geopolitical agenda,” Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said in a statement released late Monday evening.
The remarks were made in response to Mr. Miller’s article titled Rules (not might) make right in SCS, in which he said China is exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to advance its claims in the contested waters.
In the article, Mr. Miller reiterated the US’ position that China’s reclamation activities and militarization are unlawful. He was recently appointed as defense chief by American President Donald J. Trump, replacing Mark T. Esper.
Mr. Huang said the US, in interfering with the maritime dispute, breached its longstanding commitment of taking no one’s side. He also raised concern on the increasing military presence of the US in the region.
Further, he reaffirmed China’s commitment to achieve peace and stability in one of the busiest waterways in the world through cooperation. Mr. Huang cited Beijing’s agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to conclude negotiations on the Code of Conduct.
“The US is seeking to drive a wedge between China and ASEAN countries, and disrupt the consultation process of the Code of Conduct,” he said.
Mr. Miller on Dec. 5 flew to the region to meet with his counterparts in the Philippines and Indonesia. He will then go to the US Indo-Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii, where he will virtually participate in the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus.
His article followed similar statements of White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, which China said were meant to create “chaos” in between China and ASEAN states.
The ASEAN members with SCS claims are Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam. — Charmaine A. Tadalan