A UN Security Council meeting on maritime security has turned into a scene of a heated exchange between Chinese and American officials, with the Chinese envoy taking the US to task for threatening peace in the South China Sea, after the US secretary of state accused Beijing of using bullying tactics.
Addressing Monday's virtual session, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a conflict in the South China Sea “would have serious global consequences for security, and for commerce," adding that his country was concerned by alleged actions that "intimidate and bully other states from lawfully accessing their maritime resources."
China claims the South China Sea in its entirety. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of the sea. The United States, which sides with Beijing’s rival claimants in the maritime dispute, regularly dispatches warships and warplanes to the waters as part of what it describes as “freedom of navigation” patrols.
Blinken’s remarks sparked condemnation from Beijing, with China’s deputy UN ambassador Dai Bing saying Washington is “not qualified to make irresponsible remarks on the issue of South China Sea.”
Dai described the situation in the South China Sea as “generally stable,” adding “All countries enjoy freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with international law.”
The Chines envoy also noted that the United States has been "stirring up trouble out of nothing, arbitrarily sending advanced military vessels and aircraft into the South China Sea as provocations and publicly trying to drive a wedge between regional countries."
In a strongly-worded condemnation of Washington's moves, Dai termed the US as "the biggest threat to peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
Noting that the UNSC is not the right place to discuss the matter, the envoy described the US hype in the Council as “entirely politically motivated.”
Beijing and Washington are at odds over a range of issues, including alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang, and Beijing's policies in regard to Hong Kong, Taipei and the disputed territories in the South China Sea, as well as the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.