Beijing rejects US, Philippines suggestion it freezes South China Sea projects

Beijing dismisses pleas from US and Philippines to halt development in disputed waters amid strained ties with its Southeast Asian neighbours

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 4:40am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 9:09am

China shrugged off the United States and the Philippine's suggestion it suspend developing areas in the disputed South China Sea ahead of a regional summit that has been overshadowed by rising tensions between Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbours over rival territorial claims.

In a defiant tone, an official from the Foreign Ministry branded the suggestion as "impractical" and insisted on China's right to continue its activities in the disputed waters, including building artificial islands.

"What China will do, or won't do, is determined by the Chinese government. No other people can change the stance of the Chinese government," said Yi Xianliang, the deputy director general of the ministry's department of boundary and oceanic affairs.

Yi's remarks, made at a forum held by the All-China Journalists Association, came as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is set to hold a meeting in Myanmar this week. Asean foreign ministers and counterparts from the bloc's main regional trading partners, including China, Japan and South Korea, will hold talks. A regional security dialogue will also be held, with the United States taking part.

Philippines Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said yesterday that Manila had won support from Vietnam, Indonesia and Brunei for an immediate moratorium on activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea and for the implementation of a code of conduct in the region.

Washington last month called for a voluntary freeze on actions that would escalate tensions in the region.

"On what capacity can Washington raise such a suggestion?" Yi asked. "The suggestion is simply not constructive and cannot be implemented." Disputes should be resolved by countries with claims to the waters, he said.

Tensions have increased between Beijing and its Southeast Asian neighbours, especially the Philippines and Vietnam, as China has become more assertive over its maritime claims in the region.

A series of deadly anti-China riots swept through Vietnam in May after Beijing deployed an oil rig in contested waters in the South China Sea.

China is also looking to expand its biggest installation in the Spratly Islands, on the disputed Fiery Cross Reef, into an artificial island, complete with an airstrip and port, according to mainland scholars and naval experts.

Yi said other countries with claims in the South China Sea had also carried out reclamation work and built facilities on disputed islands, including a kindergarten.

"China has the right to build facilities on Chinese territory," he said.

Additional reporting by Agence-France Presse