China accused the US on Thursday of meddling in its affairs in the South China Sea and making factually incorrect comments on India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) while expressing strong displeasure at an American diplomat’s remarks on the two issues in New Delhi.
Beijing described the comments by US under secretary of state for political affairs Thomas Shannon as “irresponsible” and said the US should stop trying to drive “wedges” between countries.
China’s sharp reactions came hours after Shannon’s remarks were reported by the Indian media on Thursday morning.
Shannon had said on the NSG issue that the one country which blocked India from entering the club of nations controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology should be held “accountable”.
“We understand that in a consensus-based organisation, one country can break consensus. But in order to do so, it must be (held) accountable, not isolated,” Shannon was quoted as having told a meeting at the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi.
China possibly found Shannon’s comments on the South China Sea even more provocative.
“What China is doing in the South China Sea region is madness. Building airstrips and landing aircraft on that. As far as their navy is concerned, all they are doing is building targets. Our own view is that China can keep the sea-lanes open through its navy in the region. It is our hope that China will be able to follow a rule-based international order,” Shannon was quoted as having said.
Beijing expectedly reacted angrily.
On the issue of India’s application to join the NSG, foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said the US official did not show any “regard for facts”.
“In the plenary meeting in Seoul (held last week), India’s accession was not on the agenda,” Hong told a regular news briefing on Thursday. NSG members did not discuss the entry of any specific country into the group, he said.
What the meeting instead discussed, according to Hong, were “technical, political and legal” issues concerning the accession of countries which are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Referring to Shannon’s comments on the South China Sea, Hong said: “China is strongly dissatisfied with that.”
China’s position, he said, was firstly to “maintain our sovereignty and maritime rights and interests” and secondly, “to resolve disputes through dialogue and consultations”.
Hong added: “The remarks made by the US official tries to drive a wedge between regional countries, confuse right from wrong and are extremely irresponsible.” The US, he said should play a constructive role in the South China Sea and not the opposite.
China is locked in disputes over the ownership of islands and reefs in the South China Sea with several countries such as Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.