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Beijing says US provoking arms race by moving forces into South China Sea

The USS Gabrielle Giffords is greeted with full military respect and receives passing honors by Philippine navy officers aboard the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar in South China Sea, on Feb. 9, 2024. (Photo by Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Command via AFP

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong has warned that the United States is posing the biggest military threat in the South China Sea as its weapons’ deployment there is turning the region into “the whirlpool of an arms race.” 

“At present, the biggest security challenge in the South China Sea comes from outside the region,” Sun said in comments published on Sunday, noting that Beijing was willing to resolve its territorial disputes with nearby countries in the South China Sea through dialog.

Sun, who recently attended a high-level meeting on East Asian cooperation in Laos, said US-led forces were “promoting military deployment and actions in the South China Sea, inciting and intensifying maritime disputes and contradictions, and damaging the legitimate rights and interests of coastal countries.”

A move by the United States to deploy medium-range missile systems in the area “is dragging the region into the whirlpool of an arms race, placing the entire Asia Pacific region under the shadow of geopolitical conflicts,” Sun noted, adding that Beijing aimed to properly manage its territorial disputes with the parties in the South China Sea through dialogue.

In the meantime, China, which claims most of the South China Sea territories, has deployed hundreds of coast guard vessels as far as 1,000 km off its coasts to guard its jurisdiction in the region.

However, in the guise of joint military exercises with US regional allies, and under the pretext of “freedom of navigation”,  the US military also keeps its forces present in the highly strategic South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce, turning the international waters into a powder keg waiting to explode.

In a meeting with US allies in April, the Philippines announced the Manila government plans to assert its sovereign rights in the South China Sea. The Filipino leadership also criticized what it described as Beijing’s aggressive policies, and the willingness for “harassment” of the Philippines.

China, for its part, blamed the Filipinos’ expansionist policy as the source of their territorial dispute, emphasizing it will not allow the violation of Chinese territorial waters, or secession in any Chinese lands.

In regard to China's territorial disputes with its neighboring countries, the United States has been keen to take sides with those opposed to Beijing.

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