China has accused the US of “double standards” on the issue of militarisation of the South China Sea, days after it emerged that Beijing has deployed surface-to-air missiles on an island in the hotly disputed area.
“Instead of questioning China about “militarising” the region, the US should reflect on its own behaviour. Stopping patrols, drills and reconnaissance will be the right way for it to serve its own interests and others,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a hard-hitting commentary.
“The US has taken double standards on the militarisation in the South China Sea,” it said, accusing Washington that it automatically links Chinese defence facility deployment to militarisation while “selectively dodging” the Philippines and Vietnam that have “militarised” the Chinese islands they occupy or the US joint drills and patrols.
US and Taiwanese officials last week confirmed satellite images showing two batteries of eight HQ-9 missiles placed on Woody Island in the resource-rich South China Sea (SCS). China has not denied the appearance of the missiles, but says it was well within its rights to defend its territory.
Woody Island is part of the Paracels chain, under Chinese control that is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.
“The US, the self-styled guardian of freedom of navigation, rationalises its navy and air force patrols for such purposes and says it will continue to do so,” it said.
However, “freedom of navigation does not give one country’s military aircraft and ships free access to another country’s territorial waters and airspace,” it quoted a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson as saying last week.
China and other claimants of the South China Sea have the capacity to work out their disputes through dialogue and negotiation, the commentary, published yesterday, said.
“As a non-claimant, the US should make good on its repeated commitment that it does not take a position on competing territorial claims,” it said.
It noted that China has repeatedly made it clear that it has no intention to militarise the region. Its island construction is “mainly for maintenance purposes, improving the living conditions for stationed personnel and facilitating the movement of public goods in the region,” it claimed.
“Then why is the US stirring up this hype? Previous self-defence moves on Yongxing Island (Woody Island) seemed to raise little US interest, still less an uproar such as has been seen in recent days.”
“The change itself looks deliberate and questionable. Criticising China, regardless of the circumstances, seems to be the tool that the US is using to move more of its own military weight to the region. It is the US, rather than China, who is posing the most significant risk of militarisation,” the commentary concluded.
Last week, President Barack Obama said the US will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and will support the right of all countries to do the same. He had also called for “tangible steps” to reduce tensions in the South China Sea.