China says US provoking arms race in moves into South China Sea

June 10, 2024 - 1:08 PM
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Ayungin Shoal
Chinese Maritime Militia vessels are pictured near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 5, 2024. (Reuters/Adrian Portugal/File Photo)

The U.S. poses the largest security challenge in the South China Sea as its military deployment there is turning it into “the whirlpool of an arms race”, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong said in remarks published on Sunday.

Recent maritime run-ins between China and the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, have made the highly strategic South China Sea a potential flashpoint between Washington and Beijing.

“At present, the biggest security challenge in the South China Sea comes from outside the region,” Sun said in comments published by his ministry, after attending a high-level meeting on East Asian cooperation in Laos.

Sun said U.S.-led forces were “promoting military deployment and actions in the South China Sea, inciting and intensifying maritime disputes and contradictions, and damaging the legitimate rights and interests of coastal countries”.

A move by the United States to deploy medium-range missile systems in the area “is dragging the region into the whirlpool of an arms race, placing the entire Asia Pacific region under the shadow of geopolitical conflicts”, Sun said.

China is committed to properly managing disputes with the parties in the South China Sea through dialogue, he added.

In April, the Philippines said during a meeting with U.S. allies that it was determined to assert its sovereign rights in the South China Sea, accusing China of escalating “its harassment” of the Philippines.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce, and has deployed hundreds of coast guard vessels as far as 1,000 km off its mainland to police what it says is its jurisdiction.

The Philippines and China have sparred repeatedly this past year near disputed features that fall within Manila’s exclusive economic zone. China routinely accuses the Philippines of encroachment while Manila and its allies have condemned what they call aggression by Beijing.

The United States has said it stands with Manila.

—Reporting by Kevin Yao; editing by Mark Heinrich