War games between the US and the Philippines in the South China Sea have stirred up tension, with China saying on Friday that Washington’s decision to conduct joint patrols in the region means it is unlikely to remain neutral about disputes.
The US has dispatched around 300 soldiers and attack aircraft for the annual drill with the Philippines. The troops and aircraft will remain in the region till the end of April.
The US action amounts to it “wading deeper and deeper into a regional row, on which it has promised to stay neutral”, China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a comment piece.
“In late January, a US Navy guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 km) off Zhongjian Dao, part of China’s Xisha Islands, without prior notice to the Chinese side. It was a clear violation of international law,” the commentary said.
Describing the US approach to the maritime disputes in the South China Sea as “lopsided”, the commentary said that “the world’s sole super power has clearly gone back on its words”.
It added, “However, in addition to its commitment not to take sides, Washington must be reminded of one simple fact: neither muscle-flexing nor arbitrary intervention will shake China’s resolve to safeguard its sovereignty and maritime rights.”
China claims nearly the whole of the South China Sea and is locked in territorial disputes with several countries, including Vietnam and Malaysia. China’s defence ministry has accused the US of militarising the region.
“The joint patrols between the US and the Philippines in the South China Sea have led to militarisation in the region, which is harmful to regional peace and stability,” the ministry said a statement.
“The Chinese military will pay close attention to the situation, and resolutely defend China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime interests,” it said. The statement added the US and Philippines “strengthening military alliance, increasing frontline military deployment and holding joint military drills with specific targets reflected Cold War mentality”.