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Russia says NATO escalating tensions in South China Sea

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says NATO is fanning the flames of tension in the South China Sea in a fashion detrimental to Russia, warning that the US-led Western military coalition has reverted to its Cold War priorities.

Speaking at a press conference on European security issues on Thursday, Lavrov said the South China Sea has turned into one of those regions “where NATO is no averse,” as the military bloc “once did in Ukraine, to escalating tensions.”

China claims sovereignty over virtually all of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The waters are believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas.

“We know how seriously China takes such provocations, not to mention Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait, and we understand that NATO's playing with fire in these regions carries threats and risks for the Russian Federation. It is as close to our shores and to our seas as Chinese territory,” Russia's top diplomat stated.

The United States, the most powerful member of NATO, routinely sends its warships and warplanes to the South China Sea to assert what it calls a right to freedom of navigation. On November 29, the Chinese military said it had chased away the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser, after it "illegally intruded" into waters in the vicinity of the South China Sea's Spratly Islands.

The Spratly Islands, known as Nansha Islands in China, lie at the heart of the territorial dispute over the South China Sea.

“The fact that NATO members under the leadership of the United States are trying to create an explosive situation there, in the wake of Europe, is well understood by everyone,” Lavrov said. That is why, he added, Russia is developing military cooperation with China and conducting joint military drills.

The Russian foreign minister also said NATO is trying to drag India into what he called an anti-Russia and anti-China alliance at a time when, according to Lavrov, the West was attempting to squeeze out Russian influence.

Lavrov said during its existence, NATO “could hardly take credit for even one real success story,” reminding that the US-led bloc has returned to its "conceptual priorities" of the Cold War in its early days some seven decades ago. “The philosophy of domination and unilateral advantages hasn’t gone anywhere following the end of the Cold War.”

NATO “brings devastation and suffering. I have already mentioned the aggression against Syria, the aggression against Libya, the destruction of the Libyan statehood,” Lavrov said, warning that the expanding alliance “deploys its forces and military infrastructure ever closer to” Russian borders. 

China blasts 'gross interference' as UK lawmakers visit Taiwan 

China warned of a forceful response as as a committee of British lawmakers visited Taiwan and met the island's premier Su Tseng-chang. 

The lawmakers are due to see Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-Wen on Friday, marking a shift in British foreign policy towards the Indo-Pacific region.

The Chinese embassy in Britain issued a statement, denouncing the visit a "flagrant violation" of the one-China principle, under which Beijing views the self-ruled island as its own territory. 

"The Chinese side urges the UK side to abide by its commitment, stop any actions that violate the one-China principle, and stop interfering in China's internal affairs," the mission said in a statement posted on Twitter.

"Moves of the UK side that undermine China's interests will be met with forceful responses from the Chinese side."

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