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China hits back at US Secretary of State Tillerson over island remarks

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This aerial photo, taken on January 2, 2017, shows a Chinese navy formation, including the aircraft carrier Liaoning (C), during military drills in the South China Sea. (By AFP)

A Chinese daily run by the state says Beijing will continue to carry out military drills in the South China Sea regardless of foreign pressure.

A Sunday commentary published in People’s Daily, which is run by China’s ruling Communist Party, pointed to recent pronouncements by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson against China’s island-building and military activities in the contested South China Sea and said Beijing would not change its course with such “provocation.”

During a recent Senate confirmation hearing, the then-nominee for Secretary of State Tillerson said China should be denied access to the islands it has built up from reefs and shoals in the disputed South China Sea. He also said such island-building should stop but did not explain how the US would act to enforce such policies — if it would, that is.

“These provocations, pressure, fantasies and over-exaggerations will not prevent the normal drills of the Chinese military,” the commentary on the Chinese daily said in reference to Tillerson’s remarks.

“The meddling and disruption of countries from outside the region can only run counter to the consensus of common interests that accords with this region and the world,” it said.

“Henceforth, the Chinese military’s exercises far out at sea will become a kind of normal, extremely normal drill,” the paper said.

Tillerson, a former chairman and CEO of oil and gas company ExxonMobil, had also said that China’s activities in the South China Sea were a threat to the “entire global economy” and were “illegal.”

Then-nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, testifies during his confirmation hearing at the US Senate, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

But President Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state has not been the only individual to bash China in the new US administration. Trump himself has been the most aggressive — in rhetoric so far — toward China. Also a former businessman with no prior political career, Trump has decried Chinese economic activities and threatened to impose unusually high tariffs on goods imported from the Asian powerhouse.

Chinese officials and media have been actively responding to the rhetoric by Trump and his men.

Earlier in the month, China also dispatched a naval fleet, including its only aircraft carrier, Liaoning, to the Taiwan Strait, prompting officials in Taipei to scramble jets and naval vessels to monitor the passage.

The fleet was back from drills in the South China Sea, and its passage through the Taiwan Strait was also meant to signal to Trump, who has questioned Chinese sovereignty over the self-ruled island, that Beijing was serious when it came to matters of sovereignty.

China claims almost all of the strategic South China Sea, through which 6.5 trillion dollars in shipping trade passes annually. The sea is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

While some of those rival claimants, such as the Philippines, have been handling their differences with China smoothly, the US stands accused of needlessly heightening tensions in a region it does not belong to.

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