China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi appeared to issue a warning to other nations about the political situation in the South China Sea. He suggested the South China Sea is not a “safari park” for countries outside the region or a “fighting arena” for major powers to compete in.
The ex-Chinese Ambassador to Japan made the remarks during a virtual seminar.
The seminar was held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
The declaration was co-signed by China and reaffirmed the freedom of navigation, overflight, peaceful settlement of disputes and self-restraint in the conduct of activities.
The comments by Mr Wang came just days after Beijing accused Canberra of provocation at sea.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told state-owned outlet Global Times: “We … urge the relevant parties to respect facts, refrain from abusing China’s restraint, and immediately stop any actions that endanger China’s national sovereignty and security in the name of implementing UN security council resolutions.”
The Global Times also reported Mr Wang had previously said the actions were a “complete provocation” to China.
It also comes after a US Navy destroyer sailed near the disputed Spratly Islands.
The US Navy said: “On July 16, USS Benfold (DDG 65) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently highlighted how Washington would also defend the Philippines.
He said: “We reaffirm that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces … would invoke US mutual defence commitments.”
Blinken added: “We call again on the People’s Republic of China to abide by its obligations under international law and cease its provocative behaviour.
“We will continue to work with allies and partners, as well as regional institutions like ASEAN, to protect and preserve the rules-based order.”
However, China has even built artificial islands on some of its South China Sea holdings.
This has raised regional concerns about Beijing’s intentions going forward.