China censures US for 'disharmonious atmosphere' in South China Sea
Iran Press TV
Tue Nov 3, 2015 6:13PM
A top Chinese military commander has expressed regret that the United States has created a "disharmonious atmosphere" in the South China Sea.
The United States "sent a naval vessel to cruise near the islands of China's Nansha Islands (also known as the Spratly Islands), which has created a disharmonious atmosphere … and this is very regretful," General Fang Fenghui, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) chief of general staff, said at a meeting with US Navy Pacific Command, Admiral Harry B. Harris in the Chinese capital, Beijing, on Tuesday.
The senior Chinese commander's comment came a week after the US Navy challenged China's sovereignty in the South China Sea by sending the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, in close proximity with the Nansha Islands.
"It is my hope that we can enhance mutual understanding and trust and remove negative effects," Fang stated.
'Ambiguous maritime claims'
Prior to the meeting, Harris, who was speaking at the Stanford Center at Peking University in the Chinese capital on Tuesday, cited a recent statement by US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that the international order "faces challenges ... from China, with its ambiguous maritime claims."
The senior US navy commander, who is an outspoken critic of Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea, advised Chinese authorities to take measures to prevent US-China maritime disputes escalating into a territorial conflict.
He said Washington does not want opportunities for building closer military-to-military ties to be wasted, and expressed hope that the two countries could manage their differences.
The senior US naval commander, however, warned Beijing that international waters and airspace did not belong to any single country, in particular China.
The US Navy's "routine operations should never be construed as a threat to any nation," Harris claimed, adding, "These operations serve to protect the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law."
Kuala Lumpur meeting
In a separate meeting between Carter and Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan later on Tuesday in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, the Chinese official reiterated Beijing's view that the move near China's Nansha Islands was illegal, according to two senior US defense officials who attended the meeting and briefed reporters afterward on condition of anonymity.
The US officials said Chang told Carter that China's activities in the South China Sea are mainly humanitarian and defensive in nature, and that for China there is a "bottom line" on US challenges to China's territorial claims and sovereignty.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying also described the USS Lassen's detour in waters of the Nansha Islands as a "blatant provocation."
The Chinese official said while the US is itself "enhancing its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region," it is sounding the alarm against "militarization of the South China Sea."
Washington accuses Beijing of conducting a massive "land reclamation" program, whereby it has built up rocks and reefs into artificial islands with facilities, for potential military applications.
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