China blasts US’ forging front vs Beijing sea actions

China criticized Washington's prioritizing the South China Sea issue at a special summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), with an editorial in China's state media yesterday calling the move regrettable.

At the two-day Asean-US Leaders' Summit, President Barack Obama and his counterparts will try to agree on how to deal with a myriad of competing maritime claims in the strategically vital South China Sea.

"Washington should bear in mind that China will never turn a blind eye to any attempt that challenges its indisputable sovereignty. Underestimation of China's resolve to defend its core interests would be a fatal mistake," Xinhua news agency noted.

It added "It is China's unswerving stance that the disputes over the South China Sea should be settled through direct one-on-one negotiations and consultations between China and the countries concerned."

The article maintained that Washington is not and will never be a spokesman for an independent organization like Asean on any issue.

"It is time for sober-minded Asean nations to distance themselves from US interference."

According to Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, the US president will deliver a "tough message" to China, which he hinted is a troublemaker that bullies smaller neighbors over the South China Sea issue.

The summit at Sunnylands, California, which is said to be an opportunity for the two sides to brainstorm the promotion of relations, might turn out to be an attempt by Washington to use Asean as a counterweight to China's increasing influence, Xinhua stressed.

It also accused Washington of emboldening nations that have disputes with China to engage in military provocation and to internationalize disputes, citing the latest remarks of Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Fleet.

"Even though his country is not part of the South China Sea disputes, Harris said in a public speech that the United States will continue to challenge China on the issue and that 'those islands do not belong to China.'"

In stark contrast with Washington's self-serving plot, the article stressed China has been promoting regional stability and development.

China, a beneficiary of free navigation in the South China Sea, is always ready to promote the code of conduct and engage in the construction of civilian infrastructure in the waters to secure free navigation, the editorial said.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia - as well as China and Taiwan, who will not be represented at Sunnylands - all lay claim to an array of remote reefs, spits, atolls and shoals that have become geopolitical hotspots.

For decades there has been building and tinkering on the islets, but recent breakneck Chinese military construction has prompted fears of conflict.

Officials and diplomats say a major aim of Monday and Tuesday's meetings is to agree on a response to a major UN panel ruling on the disputes that is expected within months.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration will decide whether China's controversial territorial claim to a vast expanse of sea inside a "nine-dash line" has any legal merit.

Source: Tribune