Beijing has once again emphasized its sovereignty over a group of disputed islands in the South and East China Seas, blasting US President Donald Trump over his recent pledge of support for Japan’s overlapping territorial claims with China.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters. China is firmly committed to upholding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a Monday press briefing.
The development came after Trump and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, issued a joint statement following a meeting last week, in which they affirmed that “Article V of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security covers the [disputed] Senkaku Islands,” referred to in China as Diaoyu.
The joint statement further added, “They oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands. The United States and Japan will deepen cooperation to safeguard the peace and stability of the East China Sea.”
The Chinese spokesman, however, expressed Beijing’s “grave” concern over and “firm” opposition to the joint Trump-Abe statement, underlining that the islands are part of China’s “inherent territory.”
“No rhetoric or actions, from whomsoever, will change the fact that Diaoyu Dao belongs to China or waver China’s resolve and determination to uphold its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Shuang added.
He also called on Tokyo and Washington to “exercise prudence” and stop making “wrong remarks” to avoid causing a negative impact on regional peace and stability.
“We urge the US and Japan to view the South China Sea issue in an objective and rational light and do more things that are conducive to peace and stability in the South China Sea rather than the opposite.”
The islands in question were transferred by the US to Japan’s administrative control in 1971, triggering a territorial dispute with China, which claims the discovery and ownership of the islands from the 14th century.
Tokyo insists it had ownership of the islands from 1895 until its surrender at the end of World War II.
During Monday’s briefing, the Chinese official defended construction on the disputed islets and reefs, rejecting US claims that Beijing is “militarizing” the area.
Beijing, he said, has the right to construction on its own islands and reefs, adding that such activities have “nothing to do with militarization.”
He also criticized Washington for interfering in the region’s affairs and provoking militarization in Southeast Asia.
“Certain countries either send vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea to flex muscles or sow discord. This is exactly the largest contributor to militarization in the South China Sea,” Shuang stated.
He was referring to the US military’s naval and aerial patrols in the disputed waters, which Beijing has repeatedly slammed as provocative.