Wang Yi: South China Sea build-up an act of self-defence

China's Foreign Minister cites security pressure from non-regional countries, mainly the US

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi attending a meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China, on June 21, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday defended China's military build-up in the South China Sea, describing it as action taken in self-defence in response to security pressure from the United States and other countries outside the region.

"Certain non-regional countries, mainly the United States, have been sending massive strategic weaponry into this region, especially to the South China Sea, as a show of military might and putting pressure on regional countries, China included," he said at a press conference on the sidelines of the Asean-related meetings hosted by Singapore last week.

"I'm afraid that is the biggest force behind China's push for militarisation in this region."

Citing aircraft carrier fleets, strategic heavy duty bombers and other advanced weaponry, Mr Wang said: "In the face of such mounting military threat and pressure, regional countries, including China, have naturally resorted to self-preservation and self-defence, and have put in place defensive facilities.

"Yet such defensive acts have been labelled as acts of militarisation. That is confounding right and wrong, and I don't think anyone aware of basic facts on the ground will come to such a conclusion."

Asked if other countries were taking action due to China's own militarisation in the South China Sea, Mr Wang said: "China is fully entitled to these measures because China needs to defend its own sovereignty and territorial integrity.

"And because there is more pressure on China, it is only natural that China takes more measures to defend itself."

But he said that no matter how the situation evolves, China will continue to work with other countries to fulfil its international obligations, including to uphold the freedom of navigation in international waters and maintain regional peace and stability.

Fresh from the back-to-back Asean Plus Three meeting between Asean, China, Japan and South Korea, and the East Asia Summit, Mr Wang drew a sharp line between "non-regional" countries and regional ones, saying there was a clear contrast in their attitudes.

Without naming names, he accused "non-regional countries" of trying to stir up trouble at the East Asia Summit, a meeting of Asean and eight non-member countries: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

Speeches delivered by foreign ministers from regional countries, he said, were all about cooperation and friendship.

But non-regional countries at the East Asia Summit "pointed fingers and tried to stir up trouble", he said.

"This is deeply regrettable. We believe the main players in these regional countries are the best judges of what has been happening in this region.

"We hope that these non-regional countries can change their mindset of believing they should be the only judge of the situation in this region.

"We hope they will show greater understanding and support for the positive efforts made by regional countries, China and Asean included, for peace and stability."

These efforts include the single draft negotiation text for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, announced on Thursday and agreed by Asean and China in June.

Such negotiations can be placed on the fast-track if there are no disturbances from outside, said Mr Wang, a stance he has taken repeatedly over the week.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 05, 2018, with the headline Wang Yi: South China Sea build-up an act of self-defence. Subscribe