China on Saturday said the United States and other countries should not meddle in the South China Sea disputes, stressing that the territorial row should only be resolved between them and other claimants. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian made the statement after Thursday’s phone call between Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and President Joe Biden’s newly appointed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who rejected China’s massive sea claim and vowed to defend Manila against aggression in the disputed waters. “China hopes countries outside the region will duly respect the efforts of China and other regional countries to properly handle maritime disputes and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea,” Zhao said.
“China is also committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes through negotiation and consultation with other countries directly concerned, and to jointly safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea with ASEAN countries.”
China, which considers the sea disputes a purely Asian issue, is opposed to any foreign intervention, particularly the US.
Although Washington is not a party to the disputes, it has declared that it is in its national interest to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the contested waters where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and China have overlapping claims.
Defying China’s warnings to keep out of the disputes, US military vessels, in a direct challenge to what it calls Beijing’s excessive claims over the waters, have repeatedly sailed in the South China Sea, prompting angry protests from the Beijing government.
China, which insisted on historical claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, has expanded its presence in the waters, turning several former reefs into artificial islands with military facilities, runways and surface to air missiles.
In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s maritime claims. But Beijing said it does not recognize the ruling.
“China’s sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea have been formed in the course of a long history, and are in line with international law and practice. China unswervingly upholds its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests