China and Asean countries would jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea region, Beijing said on Tuesday, indicating it wouldn’t allow countries such as the US and India to meddle in what it considered its backyard.
The comments came a day after Beijing bristled at an Indo-US joint statement’s reference to disputes in the South China Sea, saying only countries involved in the matter should work to resolve problems.
Beijing is embroiled in maritime disputes with several countries in the South and East China seas – including some belonging to the regional group Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) -- over the ownership of a clutch of islands that are said to be sitting on huge reserves of oil and gas.
“We believe relevant issues should be resolved through dialogue and consultation by parties directly concerned as the present situation in the South China Sea is generally stable. There is consensus between China and Asean countries that we will jointly safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.
Neither freedom of navigation in the sea nor flights have seen problems and there will be none in the future, Hua added, reiterating China’s position that it won’t take any interference in the region lying down.
“We affirm the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. We call on all parties to avoid the threat or use of force,” the Indo-US joint statement had said on Sunday.
Beijing was actively promoting and contributing to regional peace and stability, said Hua, when asked to comment on the joint statement.
“We sincerely hope for peace and stability in this area. Therefore, we hope relevant counties can say more things that are conducive to peace and stability of the region,” she said, a reference to New Delhi and Washington.
Chinese media also continued to warn India about getting too close to the United States. “Washington's canvassing of India does not point at petty interests. It serves a big vision. The US hopes that by building India into a constructive and reliable force in its "pivot to Asia" strategy, it can cultivate a new ally in Asia. New Delhi's geopolitical influence and potential strength can give Washington much more leverage to gain the upper hand in the game with China,” said an opinion piece in the state-run Global Times newspaper.
It reminded India about Pakistan’s position in the US’s international diplomatic game.
“India is not the only country in south Asia the US is trying to court. Washington still values its important connections with Pakistan over counter-terrorism, which has become one of India's biggest concerns,” the commentary added.