BEIJING • Britain's top diplomat called for freedom of navigation and overflights in the disputed South China Sea but stopped short of criticising China.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, speaking in Beijing yesterday after a visit to Japan, added that the process of post-World War Two reconciliation was "not yet complete" in Asia. His remarks come as China prepares to hold a military parade next month to commemorate the end of the war.
"We want to see claims dealt with by rules-based, not power-based, solutions in Asia as elsewhere, in a way that is consistent with the long-term peace and stability of the region, with freedom of navigation and overflight, and in accordance with international law," he told a group of university students.
Mr Hammond said Britain had a great interest in the stability of the South China Sea though it does not take a position on territorial issues. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.
Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry told a meeting of regional leaders in Kuala Lumpur that China's construction of facilities on man-made islands for "military purposes" was raising tension and risked "militarisation" by other claimant states. China responded that freedom of navigation and overflights did not mean allowing other countries to trample on sovereignty and security.
RECONCILIATION NOT COMPLETE
We need to reflect on the fact that unlike in Western Europe, the process of reconciliation is not yet complete.
BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY PHILIP HAMMOND, on Japan and China holding military parades to commemorate the end of the war
Amid longstanding tension with Japan, China will hold a military parade to commemorate the end of the war, though the White House and some European leaders have expressed concerns that it could send the wrong signal.
"We need to reflect on the fact that unlike in Western Europe, the process of reconciliation is not yet complete," Mr Hammond said. He told reporters that Britain would send a representative to the parade, but did not offer other details.