China issues warning to India, as tensions flare with Philippines over South China Sea
China has issued a warning to India not to make a “strategic miscalculation” on their disputed border.
- China and India are continuing to trade barbs following a deadly brawl on their disputed border
- The Philippines and the United States are concerned about Chinese military exercises in the disputed South China Sea
- China has rejected the criticisms and says the US is to blame for heightened tensions in the area
The move comes even as the Philippines ratchets up the rhetoric over Beijing’s continuing attempts to assert control over disputed areas of the South China Sea.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Friday called on India to “work with China to safeguard the overall situation of bilateral relations” and criticised Indian officials for making what he called irresponsible remarks after a bloody border clash last month between forces from the two nuclear-armed nations.
“India should not make a strategic miscalculation on China,” Mr Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
Responding to public outrage over the June 15 clash in the Galwan Valley that left 20 Indian troops dead, New Delhi has banned Chinese smart phone apps and stopped Chinese companies from working on road projects. The Indian army has also sent reinforcements to the area.
India and China’s border dispute
Why are troops from two nuclear-armed countries clashing with sticks and stones, and how did this decades-long dispute begin?
Mr Zhao said the moves against Chinese companies violated World Trade Organisation rules and said Beijing would “take necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises in India”.
The comments came as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an unannounced visit on Friday to a military base in the remote region of Ladakh bordering China where troops from the two countries have been facing off for nearly two months.
Mr Modi, accompanied by India’s military leadership, chanted “Long live mother India!” while addressing troops at the Nimu military base, insisting that “after every crisis, India has emerged stronger”.
He praised the valour of Indian soldiers, saying, “Enemies of India have seen your fire and fury.”
“Days of expansionism are over. Expansionism creates danger for world peace. This is an era of development. Expansionist forces have either lost or forced to turn back,” he said in an oblique reference to China.
Ji Rong, the Chinese Embassy spokesperson in New Delhi, said it was groundless to view China as “expansionist”.
He tweeted that China has demarcated boundaries “with 12 of its 14 neighbouring countries through peaceful negotiations, turning land borders into bonds of friendly cooperation”.
Philippines unhappy with Chinese naval manoeuvrers
Meanwhile, the Philippine foreign secretary warned China on Friday of “the severest response” if ongoing Chinese military exercises in the disputed South China Sea spill over into Philippine territory.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said China’s People’s Liberation Army has been staging exercises off the Paracel Islands since July 1 and Chinese maritime officials have prohibited all vessels from navigating within the area of the manoeuvres.
After checking the coordinates of the Chinese-declared no-entry zone where the manoeuvres were being staged, Mr Locsin said the waters off the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam, “do not impinge on Philippine territory” but it was still a concern.
“Should the exercises spill over to Philippine territory, then China is forewarned that it will be met with the severest response, diplomatic and whatever else is appropriate,” Mr Locsin said in a statement.
The Philippine warning to China over their territorial conflicts is the strongest so far this year and comes despite an improvement in relations since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016.
China ‘playing fast and loose’ with history
Vietnam protested in April after a Chinese coast guard ship rammed and sank a boat with eight fishermen off the Paracel Islands.
The Philippines backed Vietnam and protested two new territorial districts announced by China in large swaths of the sea, adding that China’s assertive actions were taking place while the region was intensely preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Locsin said those territorial districts had no basis in international law.
China has claimed virtually the entire waterway, one of the world’s busiest, on historical grounds but its claim was invalidated by an international tribunal in a 2016 ruling based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“They open themselves to error; unless the real purpose is to excuse unchallenged mistakes that may over time harden into rights.”
China, like any other power, could invoke freedom of navigation while carrying out military exercises, Mr Locsin said, but added that such passages should be done in a straight and uninterrupted voyage.
“We continue to look to China, as our nearest and biggest trading partner,” Mr Locsin said.
Beijing puts the blame on Washington
The Pentagon said in a statement on Thursday that conducting military exercises over disputed territory in the South China Sea was “counter-productive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability”.
China on Friday rejected criticism from all parties of its plan to hold military exercises in the South China Sea, and suggested that Washington was to blame for increased tensions in the region.
Mr Zhao, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said the military exercises were within the scope of China’s sovereignty and certain “non-regional countries” conducting military exercises in the South China Sea were affecting the region’s stability.
He did not name any countries, but the US has conducted multiple freedom of navigation operations by sending its warships through the area to assert the freedom of access to international waterways.