US, Britain raising tension over South China Sea: Chinese envoy

LONDON • Some politicians and media outlets in the US and Britain should stop meddling in the South China Sea, said China's envoy to Britain in a letter published in The Times.

In the signed letter, Mr Liu Xiao- ming wrote: "The issue of the South China Sea is being ramped up by those in the US and the UK who accuse China of causing tension in the region.

"They proclaim the principle of free navigation and overflight but in reality their prejudice and partiality will only increase tension."

In the letter published on Wednesday, Mr Liu reiterated Beijing's position that China was the first country to discover, name and govern the disputed Spratly islands, or Nansha as they are known in Chinese.

"Despite this, more than 40 are now illegally occupied by other countries," Mr Liu wrote in the letter, which was published on his embassy's website.

Beijing has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year.

'PREJUDICE AGAINST CHINA'

The issue of the South China Sea is being ramped up by those in the US and the UK who accuse China of causing tension in the region.

They proclaim the principle of free navigation and overflight but in reality their prejudice and partiality will only increase tension.

MR LIU XIAOMING, China's envoy to Britain.

China has drawn international criticism over its frenzied reclamation and construction on the disputed islands. It has turned several reefs into islands and built military facilities on them, satellite images have shown.

But Mr Liu said that apart from what he described as "minimum defence facilities", the construction works are primarily meant for civilian purposes.

China's construction activities on "its own islands and reefs" were not targeted at any other country, he wrote.

He added that claims that China's actions pose a threat to the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea were untrue, adding that more than 100,000 vessels pass through the sea unimpe- ded every year.

"Is the freedom of navigation that every country is entitled to really the issue? Or is it the 'freedom' of certain countries to flex military muscle and moor warships on other nations' doorsteps and fly military jets over other countries' territorial airspace?

"If it is the latter, such 'freedom' should be condemned as a flagrantly hostile act and stopped," he said.

He accused some countries outside the South China Sea of taking sides in the dispute.

"The military vessels and planes they sent to the region and the accusations they throw at China only encourage certain countries in the region to behave even more recklessly, increasing the tension," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2016, with the headline 'US, Britain raising tension over South China Sea: Chinese envoy'. Print Edition | Subscribe