Beijing refutes US claim on South China Sea

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Beijing, Feb 23 (IANS) China on Tuesday once again refuted the US claim that China has threatened the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, urging it to stop sowing dissension among South China Sea littoral countries.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks at a daily press briefing in response to a senior US naval officer’s recent call for more naval operations in the region, Xinhua reported.

“I must point out that the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea entitled under international law does not mean US naval vessels or airplanes’ freedom to flex their muscle,” Hua said.

Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, said on Monday that Australia and other countries should follow the US lead and conduct “freedom-of-navigation” naval operations within 12 nautical miles of contested islands in the South China Sea, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

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As the world’s largest trade-in-goods nation and the largest South China Sea littoral state, China “cares more about navigation safety and freedom in the South China Sea than any other country,” said Hua.

In fact, there has never been any problem with navigational freedom in the South China Sea, said Hua, adding it was unfair to “put such a label on China.”

She urged the United States to stop sowing dissension and deliberately stirring up tension, and stop deeds and actions that undermine peace and stability in the region.

When asked to comment on some US media saying that China is creating a “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea, Hua said China’s sovereignty and claims in the South China Sea are grounded in history and upheld by successive Chinese governments.

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The position has adequate historical and legal basis, Hua said.

“We have no intention to expand (the sovereignty), nor allow it to shrink,” she said.

“If the word ‘great wall’ must be used, we suggest those media pay more attention to Chinese people’s ‘great wall of will’ to firmly safeguard territorial sovereignty and legal rights,” Hua said.

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