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China warns it will respond to US ships with all means – Merkel urges Beijing to resolve sea row in courts

BEIJING: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (second left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) attend a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. —AP
BEIJING: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (second left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) attend a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. —AP

BEIJING: China’s military will take “all necessary” measures in response to any future US Navy incursions into what it considers its territorial waters around islands in the South China Sea, a Defense Ministry spokesman said yesterday.

The statement by Col Yang Yujun followed the sailing of a US guided missile destroyer within the 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial limit of one of the islands newly created by China in the strategically vital region. The US refuses to recognize the man-made islets as deserving of sovereign territory status. The Chinese side took no forceful action during the USS Lassen’s sail-by on Tuesday, but strenuously protested the maneuver. China’s reaction fits the pattern in similar such incidents in recent years. Yang offered no details on how Beijing might respond differently in the future.

“We would urge the US not to continue down the wrong path. But if the US side does continue, we will take all necessary measures according to the need,” Yang said. China’s resolve to safeguard its national sovereignty and security interests is “rock-solid,” he added.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and its islands, reefs and atolls as its sovereign territory, an assertion challenged by five other regional governments.

While the US takes no formal position on sovereignty, it insists on freedom of navigation and has urged China to cease its ambitious project to construct new islands complete with buildings, harbors and airstrips.

Yang reiterated Beijing’s claim that the USS Lassen violated Chinese sovereignty and international law, although the sail-by appeared to fall under internationally allowed “innocent passage” rules. Yang gave no details of China’s claims. Yang said a pair of Chinese navy ships had shadowed the Lassen, monitored its actions and issued warnings. The spokesman said China supported the right to freedom of navigation and overflight, but accused the US of abusing those for its own interests.
“We are strongly against any kind of effort in the name of freedom of navigation that might damage the interests and security of the littoral states,” Yang said.

Merkel concern
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern yesterday about a territorial dispute between the Chinese and US navies in the South China Sea, and suggested China go to international courts to resolve the row. On a two-day visit to China, Merkel said it was essential that sea trade routes remain open despite the dispute, which flared up after a US warship challenged China’s territorial assertions in the disputed waters this week.

“The territorial dispute in the South China Sea is a serious conflict. I am always a bit surprised why in this case multinational courts should not be an option for a solution,” Merkel said in speech in Beijing. “Nevertheless, we wish that the sea trade routes stay free and safe, because they are important for all.”

Beijing rebuked Washington for sending a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago on Tuesday, saying it had tracked and warned the USS Lassen and called in the US ambassador to protest.

Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang earlier addressed the situation in Syria, and agreed there must be a political solution to the crisis there.

Russia last month began air strikes on targets in Syria in a dramatic escalation of foreign involvement in the civil war. This has been criticised by the West as an attempt to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, rather than its purported aim of attacking Islamic State militants.

A big focus of Merkel’s China trip is trade and she keen to shore up German business interests challenged by Volkswagen’s emissions scandal and the flurry of deals clinched during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Britain last week.
Her visit paid dividends, with China and Germany signing a deal that will see Chinese airlines buy 130 jets manufactured by European planemaker Airbus Group SE. – Agencies

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