Beijing on Friday dismissed a US official’s warning against possible Chinese expansion in the skies over the South China Sea, calling the remarks “irresponsible”.
The United States had urged Beijing to clarify or adjust its claims in the South China Sea, calling for a peaceful solution to one of Asia’s growing flashpoints.
“Some US officials make groundless accusations against China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular briefing.
He added that “right-wing forces in Japan” were responsible for stirring up “rumours” on the issue.
Hong was responding to comments made on Wednesday by the top US diplomat for the region, Danny Russel, warning Beijing not to move to impose an air zone over the territory.
Beijing claims the South China Sea almost in its entirety, even areas a long way from its shoreline, but portions are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Russel supported the Philippines’ right to take its case to a United Nations tribunal -- a move last year that was denounced by China -- as part of efforts to find a “peaceful, non-coercive” solution.
“China’s lack of clarity with regard to its South China Sea claims has created uncertainty in the region and limits the prospect for achieving mutually agreeable resolution or equitable joint development arrangements,” Russel told a congressional committee.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, citing Chinese government sources, recently reported that Beijing had drafted proposals for the new air zone, with tensions already high over its imposition of an air zone above islands administered by Japan in the East China Sea.
That Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), set up in November, immediately drew condemnation from Washington as well as Tokyo, with which China is embroiled in a separate territorial row.
“We neither recognise nor accept China’s declared ADIZ,” Russel, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told the committee.
He added that the US had “made clear to China that it shouldn’t attempt to implement that ADIZ and should refrain from taking similar actions elsewhere in the region”.
Hong on Friday reiterated Beijing’s position that “as a sovereign state, China has the right to act” in order to defend its air security.
“No country has the right to make irresponsible remarks on that,” he said of Russel’s comments.