China accuses US of undermining peace and stability in South China Sea News
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
China accuses US of undermining peace and stability in South China Sea

China Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong accused the US on Sunday of undermining security in the South China Sea, citing the extraterritorial forces led by the United States pushing forward military deployments and operations in the region.

After attending a series of senior officials’ meetings on East Asian cooperation, Sun told the reporters that China has sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and is committed to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) with ASEAN countries and to actively promoting consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

The much-disputed issue of territorial sovereignty over the South China Sea, which began in the last century, mainly involves Southeast Asian countries such as China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Other countries, such as the United States, Japan, and India, also have indirect interests in the region.

China has long claimed territorial sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea based on the Nine-Dash Line map it produced in 1952, and has defended its claims to the area mainly through the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG), which is part of the Chinese military, and the unofficial organization Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM). The focus of competition among countries over maritime rights in the South China Sea includes the ownership of maritime territories and their territorial waters, as well as the 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

From the early 1970s to the present, the Philippines, Vietnam, and others have formed a de facto occupation of most of the rocky reefs and islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. has been conducting regular military exercises in the South China Sea since 2015 to show its support for the Philippines. At the same time, it claims the area as the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In 2002, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines, signed the DOC pledging to resolve territorial disputes by peaceful means and guarantee free passage in the South China Sea.

However, regional conflicts in the South China Sea have escalated since China removed a floating barrier erected by the Philippines last year. In January 2024, Philippines National Security Council representative Jonathan Malaya condemned the action by the CCG against local Philippine fishermen. Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, on March 12 highlighted the indisputable sovereignty of China over the islands in the South China Sea and asserted that there is no territorial dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea. Last month, the Philippines sent ships to a disputed area in the South China Sea and accused China of building an “artificial island” during the ongoing territorial conflict.

Concerning the deployment by the United States of a medium-range missile system in the disputed region, Sun claimed that such an approach was attempting to draw the region into an arms race and was seriously undermining regional peace and stability:

China is firmly opposed to the cold war mentality and confrontation of camps, to any extraterritorial forces stirring up an arms race in the region, and to using regional countries as tools of hegemony and geo-strategic ‘pawns’.