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Beijing Accuses U.S. of ‘Negative Publicity Campaign’ Over South China Sea Issues

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter greets Deputy Chief of the Peoples Liberation Army (China) General Staff Adm. Sun Jianguo in Singapore on June 3, 2016. DoD Photo

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter greets Deputy Chief of the Peoples Liberation Army (China) General Staff Adm. Sun Jianguo in Singapore on June 3, 2016. DoD Photo

Chinese officials took aim at U.S. assertions freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea were being restricted by Beijing in a terse Monday statement.

The defensive statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused “certain countries” of fomenting discord in the region “driven by hidden motives.”

“I am afraid the negative publicity campaign on freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea launched by certain countries is driven by hidden motives,” read the statement from ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
“By sensationalizing the so-called tensions in the South China Sea, and driving wedges between countries in the region, they are trying to justify their political and military involvement in the South China Sea issue. That is what they really want.”

The Monday statement is a direct rebuttal to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s Friday speech at the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore in which he said China was risking isolation from the rest of the international community with their expansive claims.

“China has taken some expansive and unprecedented actions that have generated concerns about China’s strategic intentions,” Carter said.
“And countries across the region have been taking action and voicing concerns publicly and privately, at the highest levels, in regional meetings, and global [forums]. As a result, China’s actions in the South China Sea are isolating it, at a time when the entire region is coming together and networking. Unfortunately, if these actions continue, China could end up erecting a Great Wall of self-isolation.”

The Monday statement from the ministry follows a tough speech from Adm. Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in which he said China would stay the course with its South China Sea plans.

Fiery Cross Reef in September 2015. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe Photo

Fiery Cross Reef in September 2015. CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe Photo

“China will not bear the consequences, nor will it allow any infringement upon its sovereignty and security interests or stay indifferent to the irresponsible behavior of some countries in and around the South China Sea,” Sun said.
“We were not isolated in the past, we are not isolated now, we will not be isolated in the future.”

Sun went on to say that Beijing viewed the state U.S. position of neutrality in the region in the region as dubious, citing three U.S. freedom of navigation operations near Chinese holdings near two artificial islands in the Spratly Island chain near the Philippines and one in the Paracels near Vietnam and backing negotiating conditions that would be advantageous to China’s territorial rivals.

“On one hand, they implement the so-called freedom of navigation program by openly showing military muscles in the South China Sea,” he said.
“On the other hand, they support allies confronting China, forcing China to accept and honor the arbitration award. China firmly opposes such behavior.”

In the coming weeks, an international maritime law tribunal is set to issue a ruling over Scarborough Shoal, a reef near the Philippines that China seized in 2012. Sun reiterated China’s position that Beijing would not recognize a ruling and would retain the feature.

A map of China's shifting definition of the so-called Nine-Dash Line. US State Dept. Image

A map of China’s shifting definition of the so-called Nine-Dash Line. US State Dept. Image

U.S. and other regional nations worry that China could begin land reclamation on the reef that would give Beijing an installation 150 miles off the coast of the Philippines and only 220 miles from the capital of Manila.

U.S. officials, notably Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry Harris, have lamented the potential coercive effect China’s installations could be to free exercise of maritime rights in the region.

‘Principled’ Approach

For its part, during Shangri-La, the U.S. called for a “principled” approach to defusing tensions in the South China Sea based on the tenants of international maritime law, which

“It’s principle that we side with, not a dispute between the United States and China, it’s a question of principle,” Carter said in response to questions following his Friday speech in which he used variations of the word “principle” 36 times according to the written transcript.

Additionally, Carter said the Pentagon’s rebalance to the Pacific was intended for the U.S. to lead security efforts in the region – a role China said it wants to occupy.

USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) on May 20, 2016. US Navy

USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) on May 20, 2016 in the South China Sea. US Navy Photo

“Our rebalance is a critical ingredient of our overall policy. By expanding the reach of all and responsible sharing the security burden represents the next wave of Asia-Pacific security,” Carter said Friday.
“Our rebalance ensures the U.S. will remain the primary provider of regional security.”

During the dialogue, U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson visited USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) for two days. The Stennis Carrier Strike Group has been operating in the South China Sea for almost two months.

CNO Adm. John Richardson on USS John C. Stennis. US Navy Photo

CNO Adm. John Richardson on USS John C. Stennis. US Navy Photo

In remarks to sailors aboard, Richardson said U.S. military presence in the region was key to ongoing regional stability.

“Everybody in the region is concerned about the stability the peacefulness and prosperity of everyone in this region. As I talk to them, I know things are going to be OK because we have the John C. Stennis Strike Group on station here in the South China Sea,” he said in a video posted to Facebook.
“When people talk about regional security, when they talk about stability, when they talk about maintaining the peace, when they talk about strategic implications of this part of the world – they are talking about you. They all take great comfort in the fact that John C. Stennis is here, present in the South China Sea.”

The following is the complete June 6, 2016 statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Remarks on Freedom of Navigation and Overflight in the South China Sea Discussed at the Shangri-La Dialogue

2016/06/06

Q: When talking about the South China Sea issue at the Shangri-La Dialogue, some people expressed concern about freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea. What is China’s comment?

A: We have noted the remarks.

The problem about freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea is a false statement. All countries have unimpeded access to normal navigation and flight activities in the South China Sea. We have never heard about any country encountering any problem. China respects and supports freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea to which all countries are entitled under international law, and has worked relentlessly for that together with other coastal states in the South China Sea. The international community knows that well.

I am afraid the negative publicity campaign on freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea launched by certain countries is driven by hidden motives. By sensationalizing the so-called tensions in the South China Sea, and driving wedges between countries in the region, they are trying to justify their political and military involvement in the South China Sea issue. That is what they really want.

China is the largest coastal state in the South China Sea. To ensure freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea meets not only the requirement of international law but also China’s fundamental interests. China will continue to do so and keep the shipping lane in the South China Sea unobstructed. We also hope that relevant countries will stop disturbing peace and stability of the region under the pretext of safeguarding or exercising freedom of navigation.

  • Curtis Conway

    “The defensive statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused “certain countries” of fomenting discord in the region “driven by hidden motives.” ”

    With fisherman from a half dozen countries having to contend with Chinese Coast Guard Cutters confronting them about fishing in Chinese waters, when they are miles off of their coast, and 300, 400, 500, 600, or 700 miles from the Chinese coast, one no longer wonders why there is a problem. The Chinese claim to sovereignty over the entire South China Sea is at question, particularly when UNCLOS applies, and China signed the Convention.

    When the court decision is announced, we will see who stands for what, and who is imposing on who, and who is taking advantage of their less fortunate neighbors. There are ageless terms that describe such behavior.

    • PolicyWonk

      “China has taken some expansive and unprecedented actions that have generated concerns about China’s strategic intentions,”
      ===========================================
      Indeed. And since they originally claimed their island reclamation projects weren’t for military purposes, but magically weapons and military aircraft appear out of thin air on these same islands, then it would seem to the reasonable person that China is, um, lying.

      One cannot discount the fact that since the Chinese have already bluntly announced that it won’t abide by any international court decisions that don’t find in their favor, the intent is in fact very clear.

      This is why international shaming needs to be part of the overall strategy when dealing with China. They have to lose face, revenues, and trade, etc., before they’ll realize that there is a cost for their actions.

      • sferrin

        “Shaming”? Seriously? Wow. How about some actions that are actually, you know, effective, such as sanctions and military presence?

        • PolicyWonk

          I see you don’t understand much about foreign policy. Nor do you understand Chinese culture, where suffering a loss of face is *very* important.

          Its just one part of an overall strategy, that has to be executed on many fronts. Read Sun-Tzu – it’ll explain a lot to you.

          • sferrin

            I see you think you know more than you do. The West has been “shamming” both Putin and China for years about their behavior and if anything it’s encouraged them. They see it as the toothless “strategy” that it is and are pretty much ignoring it.

          • PolicyWonk

            While it is true that the USA screwed up post-cold-war and took advantage of the fact that the USSR was now broke (a stupid, short-sighted strategy, but not surprising given the poor memory of what passes for today’s conservatives) that rightfully PO’d the Russians, you fail to take into account the rest of the geopolitical equation – Europe.

            During the more energy-lean years the Russians took full scale advantage of the fact that they had oil and natural gas resources in abundance, and caused a lot of trouble. So while the USA might’ve (or rather, did) had some short-sighted policies, that wasn’t the case with Europe, until Russia made it that way. Hence – the Europeans huge push for a lot more energy independence. This wasn’t “shamming” on the part of the Russians – this was the real deal.

            Russia in a number of respect have dug their own hole, and while its
            true we’ve helped them do so, we complicated the situation by expanding NATO right
            to their front door, which would bring the nationalists to the forefront just when more liberal factions were gaining influence.

            But when you’re dealing with the Chinese its culturally an entirely different matter, and if you haven’t studied Asian history (especially China), I’d advise you do so, in order for you to understand the culture, traditions that have been carried down for hundreds of generations, etc.

            It was the Chinese that took themselves out of the global market for so long under Mao, before Nixon went to China. Since then we’d been relatively even-handed with them. It really depends on how far back you want to go with the discussion – the Chinese are currently trying to settle old scores with neighbors that have been brewing for hundreds of years in some cases – in direct violation of international laws that they signed onto – but have said they will now ignore.

            This dishonors them in the eyes of the rest of the world, which is why part of the diplomatic strategy is to inform the rest of the planet that China is losing face and shaming their ancestors.

            I know there are plenty of clowns that think diplomacy occurs by the barrel of a gun or via use of force – but that’s the dumbest thing we could possible do and only makes us look weak. Use of the military is what occurs when foreign policy and diplomacy fail. Talk is FAR cheaper than use of force. But if you have to use force – it has to be overwhelming.

          • sferrin

            Talk is cheap alright. Nationalism is at the forefront in China these days. They’re using intimidation and rapidly expanding their military presence and claims all over the South China Sea. Talk has done nothing to slow this expansion. Nothing whatsoever. In fact I challenge you to show where talk has done anything of note in the South China Sea in the last 5 years with regards to China.

  • No-U-FC

    Pull the plugs on china economic mercantilism will end chinese military buildup and aggressive and erratic behaviors!

  • Marauder 2048

    Is that former SecDef William Cohen to the left of the PLAN admiral?

    • Bill

      Looks like. What a tool!

  • publius_maximus_III

    “Typhoon Kujira takes shape in South China Sea” – June 2015

    A few more of these suckers ought to help defuse the SCS situation. (No more stationary aircraft carriers.)

  • china has NO business in the Sprately’s…these are NOT chinese waters, its 600+ miles from china!! I remember in the 80’s they were out there moving sand and all we did was laugh, now its a problem. china is now channeling trump, and doing mass name calling of anyone who does NOT agree with them.

    what crap.

    • Ako Madamosiya 毛むくじゃら

      Because of the lies of the Nine Dash Line scam. The Tribunal does not even talk about it. That just shows you how illogical China has been. They lied too much to the point they think its true.

  • Ako Madamosiya 毛むくじゃら

    The role it wants to occupy in lieu of the US in the Far East is nothing but a facade but the underlying reason is to get back at Japan for a score in wants to settle since the 1930’s. If the Americans will free Japan and our constitution can be tweaked to allow the Japanese Imperial Army 🙂 to protect itself from nuclear China, then go ahead make our day!