A Chinese Defense Ministry spokesperson said Thursday that the country will take “all necessary measures” in response to future U.S Navy incursions into what it calls its territorial waters in the disputed South China Sea.
Col. Yang Yujun’s announcement came two days after the U.S. Navy’s USS Lassen’s sailed within the 12-nauticile-mile territorial limit of one of China’s man-made islands in the region. The U.S. refuses to honor sovereign territorial status for these islands, and five regional governments challenge China’s territorial claim to virtually all of the South China Sea including its islands, reefs and atolls.
China didn’t take forceful action against the United State’s navigational maneuver, but strongly condemned it – a common response in similar situations which have occurred in recent years.
“We would urge the U.S. not to continue down the wrong path,” Yang said. “But if the U.S. side does continue, we will take all necessary measures according to the need. China’s resolve to safeguard its national sovereignty and security interests is rock-solid.”
China also denounced the move as a violation of its sovereignty and international law, but the navigation seemed to fall under the internationally recognized “innocent passage” rules.
Beijing, nonetheless, refuses to acknowledge it.
“We are strongly against any kind of effort in the name of freedom of navigation that might damage the interests and security of the littoral states,” Yang said.
The U.S. has urged China to ease its ambitious island building in the South China Sea. Its artificial islands are already complete with buildings, harbors, and airstrips – raising concern among regional governments about a military buildup.
Yang said that Adm. Wu Shengli, commander of the Chinese navy, would present China’s “solemn position” on the South China Sea issue during a video conference later Thursday with Adm. John Richardson, U.S. head of naval operations.