America Should Act with Caution in the South Sea

Recently, the American military has clamored to send its warships into the area surrounding the Chinese man-made islands in the South Sea, a move endorsed by the White House, making us wonder: What is America trying to do?

The core of the South Sea problem is the violation of Chinese territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and the slander and attack on China’s rightful protection of its interests. According to the “preemption” rule of international law, China has sovereignty of the islands north of Zengmu Ansha (James Shoal) in the South Sea as well as maritime rights and interests in the surrounding areas. In 1947, the Chinese government marked its territory with the “11 dotted lines,” indicating its maritime rights and interests in the islands and territorial waters within the lines, which brought no objection from any countries. In the 1960s, when some countries in the South Sea began to encroach on these Chinese-owned islands, the Chinese government tried to promote “Chinese sovereignty, setting aside conflict, and mutual development,” yet some countries not only refused to cooperate but acted more brazenly. After America began promoting its “Asia-Pacific Rebalancing” strategy, some countries were tempted to increase their provocation of China, and combined with America’s increasing military presence and cooperation with these countries in the area, more tension was created in the South Sea.

China is not creating man-made islands in the South Sea but strengthening construction in its own territory. The goal is to improve living facilities for personnel on the island, and construct essential defense facilities and other facilities for better navigation. These measures are right, proper and indisputable, but America and other countries are sensationalizing and slandering them, so we have to stay highly guarded and object to this truth-distorting fallacy.

The so-called “protection of navigational rights” is a pseudo-proposition. The South Sea naval territory is a channel that connects the western Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, which has never been affected, not to mention that China has the biggest need for free use of the channel. Our foreign trade and energy supply are highly dependent on the unimpeded safety of the South Sea naval channel. America, Japan and other countries’ sensationalizing of the naval liberty issue is really a way to challenge China’s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the area, and it has unspeakable political purposes, which we must expose.

The militarization of the South Sea is a verbal trap. The Chinese government has always advocated making the area into a sea of cooperation and peace. China has promoted and funded research and development projects in the South Sea to benefit the countries and people in the area. To say Chinese construction projects on its own islands equal military action is slander; it is misguiding the media and a despicable way to make the victim into a defendant. In fact, the only country militarizing the area is America. America’s increasing military activities, the sending of its naval vessels and aircraft, air surveillance and joint military exercises with other countries have all made the region combative. We cannot fall into America’s trap; we have to continue our island construction projects in the South Sea.

China’s determination to protect its sovereignty and maritime rights and interests cannot be questioned; the Chinese military’s ability to protect its national security and development interests cannot be underestimated. We have to protest against, warn and urge America not to misjudge the situation when it sends vessels and aircraft into our South Sea islands and territorial waters or when it cruises the area. We need to make sure America does not do anything to hurt the China-U.S. relationship, nor does anything to destroy the peace and stability in the region. Protecting the sovereignty of territory and maritime rights requires not only a firm resolve but powerful strength, especially military power. The People’s Liberation Army has the confidence and the ability to give a firm rebuke to any foreign forces who dare to violate China’s national security and development.

The author is a rear admiral in the Chinese navy.

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