China has warned of the “huge security risk” the US poses to Asia just days after a US ship once again ventured into the disputed South China Sea.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday the US was attempting to manipulate Southeast Asian nations amid ongoing tensions over conflicting territorial claims.
“[Washington is attempting to] stir up confrontation among different groups and blocs, and stir up geopolitical competition while maintaining the predominance and hegemony system of the US,” Mr Wang told reporters.
He said the US was seeking to build an “Indo-Pacific NATO” which he described as a “huge security risk”.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian hit back at a recent interview from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo where he claimed nations across the world would seek to partner with the US.
“The United States has become a troublemaker who undermines international order and threatens international rules,” he said on Monday.
“Which country is willing to work by the side of such a country and sink as low as it does?”
The foreign ministry’s robust rhetoric comes after the US Navy continued its freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea on Friday, navigating near the disputed Paracel Islands.
China’s People’s Liberation Army accused the US of trespassing and called on Washington to “immediately stop its “provocative actions”.
“[The mission was a] blatant navigation hegemony and military provocation [that] seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security interests, and gravely jeopardised peace and stability in the South China Sea,” PLA spokesperson Colonel Zhang Nandong said.
He said if the US didn’t, it could materialise into an “eventuality”.
China claims sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea, which is also claimed in whole or in part by Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Frictions between China and Indonesia have also increased over activities by China's fishing vessels, the coast guard and navy within Indonesia's exclusive economic zone.
China ignored a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated most of its territorial claims in the South China Sea, but has encountered persistent pushback from the US, its allies and China's Southeast Asian neighbours over its moves to cement its control in the disputed area.
Mr Wang also urged Southeast Asian nations, which are aiming to draw up a code of conduct with China in the South China Sea, to remove “external disruption” in the disputed waters, but did not elaborate.
Mr Wang's tone is typical of China's increasingly hard-line approach to disputes with Washington as it seeks to capitalise on political divisions within the US and a perceived decline in America’s global influence to advance its own foreign policy aims.
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