BEIJING: China has summoned a senior US diplomat over American criticism of Beijing’s decision to set up a new military garrison in the South China Sea, in an escalating row over the tense waters.
Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng called in the US embassy’s deputy chief of mission Robert Wang on Saturday, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It came the same day Beijing publicly lashed out after the US said China had raised tensions in the region with the announcement late last month it had established a new city and garrison in the disputed Paracel islands.
Zhang told Wang that US State Department remarks on Friday “sent a seriously wrong message”, echoing the strong public criticisms.
“The Chinese side expresses strong dissatisfaction of and firm opposition to it. We urge the US side to correct its mistaken ways, respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Zhang urged Wang to convey Beijing’s message to the “highest level” of the US government, the statement said.
The new garrison has infuriated Vietnam and the Philippines who accuse Beijing of stepping up harassment at sea.
China says it controls much of the South China Sea, but the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan all claim portions.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement Friday the US was “concerned by the increase in tensions in the South China Sea and are monitoring the situation closely”.
The new garrison and city run “counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region,” he added.
Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Saturday accused the US of “selective blindness” as “certain countries” escalated disputes by opening oil and gas blocks, threatening Chinese fishermen, and illegally appropriating territory.
The Philippines recently offered oil and gas exploration contracts in a disputed area of the South China Sea, and in April was locked in a tense stand-off with China over a shoal.
Vietnam attracted China’s ire in June after it adopted a law that places the Spratly islands under Hanoi’s sovereignty. Both countries claim the islands as their own.
Channel News Asia