US military South China Sea moves are ‘futile and its allies risk harm’: Chinese colonel

Kristin Huang
·4-min read

United States military action over the South China Sea was destined to be futile and American allies would be harmed, Beijing said in a series of tough rebukes against Washington.

In commentary in the PLA Daily on Monday Zhang Junshe, a senior colonel in the Chinese navy, said the US should stop its provocative acts in the South China Sea and Beijing was determined to safeguard its maritime sovereignty.

“The US is not a country in the region and it is doing large-scale exercises in the South China Sea, far away from its homeland, yet at the same time it is unreasonably accusing China of doing normal military exercises at its doorstep,” Zhang said.

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“The double-standard remarks from the US cannot disguise its real motives, which is to push militarisation and destabilise peace in the South China Sea,” said Zhang, who is also a senior research fellow at the People’s Liberation Army Naval Military Studies Research Institute.

Aircraft from Carrier Air Wings 5 and 17 fly in formation over the Nimitz Carrier Strike Force, in the South China Sea on July 6. Photo: EPA-EFE
Aircraft from Carrier Air Wings 5 and 17 fly in formation over the Nimitz Carrier Strike Force, in the South China Sea on July 6. Photo: EPA-EFE

He said the US military, despite being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, was holding tight to a Cold War mindset and persisted in hitting out at the competition.

At the weekend, China’s Southern Theatre Command said in its official WeChat account that although the US wanted to reassure its allies in the Indo-Pacific region, no one could be assured that the US might not exploit these alliances and that Washington could be tough even against its friends. The post said that said one example was India which it said had been threatened with sanctions by the US after signing an arms deal with Russia.

The WeChat article accused the US of sowing discord in the region.

“Chinese efforts to stabilise regional peace – while facing a US that is intent on making the South China Sea issue difficult – should be respected,” the article said. “It is easy to shake a mountain, but there is no way to shake the PLA.”

South China Sea: Vietnam urges Beijing to ‘show restraint’ in 2020

The WeChat commentary on Sunday came after the US conducted a big naval drill in the South China Sea. It involved two aircraft carrier groups, USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, on tactical air defence exercises “in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific”, according to the US Navy official Twitter account.

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea – over 80 per cent of which Beijing claims as its own – have been a long-standing source of regional tension, including with rival claimants Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The US Department of Defence said in a statement on July 2 that the Chinese military exercises around the Paracel Islands had violated China’s international commitments to avoid actions that would “complicate or escalate disputes” in the region. China calls the Paracels the Xisha Islands, and Vietnam, which also lays claim to them, refers to them as the Hoang Sa Islands.

“The military exercises are the latest in a long string of [Chinese] actions to assert unlawful maritime claims and disadvantage its Southeast Asian neighbours in the South China Sea,” the statement read. “[These] actions stand in contrast to its pledge to not militarise the South China Sea and the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

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