Paper urges Beijing to 'teach US a lesson'

HONG KONG • Chinese forces should fire warning shots or even deliberately collide with American warships in worst-case scenarios, said a commentary published by the People's Daily.

Beijing has been angered by air and sea patrols the United States has conducted near islands that China claims. Those have included one by two B-52 strategic bombers in November and by a US Navy destroyer that sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracels last month.

Beijing must take tough action to "teach the US a lesson" if the latter continues in its bold acts, said the article posted on the social media account of People's Daily's overseas edition.

The commentary, cited in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Saturday, said the Paracels, which have been under Chinese control for more than 40 years, was Beijing's bottom line in defending the South China Sea.

Mr Hu Bo, author of the commentary and a researcher at the Institute of Ocean Research, urged China to make its stance clear in the Paracels by taking firmer action against incursions.

This included escorting out vessels and - in worst-case scenarios - deliberately colliding with ships to teach them a lesson.

"Once the Paracels become an international problem like the Spratlys, it would be a major failure of China's South China Sea policy," Mr Hu told the English-language SCMP.

Tensions in the South China Sea flared up in the past week following news that China deployed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on the Woody Island or Yongxing Island, the largest of the Paracels.

China did not confirm or deny the deployment of the weapons, but Chinese officials and state media have highlighted that China has deployed limited defence measures in the Paracels for decades.

The Global Times on Saturday reproduced a commentary from The Diplomat website.

The piece, written by a research fellow at Yonsei University's Centre for International Studies, is titled "Five myths about China's missile deployment on Yongxing Island".

The author Jin Kai said that among other things, the US seems to intentionally be confusing the Spratlys and the Paracels so as to better denounce China.

"For the past decades, civilian and commercial freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been sabotaged by China's military forces," wrote the author, who previously served with the People's Liberation Army of China.

"Instead, it is the US military 'freedom of navigation' in the South China Sea that could be limited by China, if it is perceived as a threat to China's sovereignty.

The piece added that it was "quite convenient for the US to blame China for this somewhat imaginary 'threat' to 'freedom of navigation' to gain international support for its military operations in the South China Sea".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Paper urges Beijing to 'teach US a lesson''. Print Edition | Subscribe