Politics

China To US: Loading South China Sea Island With Missiles Is No Different Than Your Defense Of Hawaii

(Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

China deploying military capabilities in the South China Sea is no different than the U.S. military operating near Hawaii, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry Monday.

Except that Washington didn’t artificially build the Hawaiian islands.

Apparently, the implication is that Chinese Foreign Ministry is making an aggressive case that it has legitimate jurisdiction over artificial islands in the South China Sea in the same way that Hawaii is firmly within the United States’ purview, Reuters reports.

China has continuously claimed from the beginning that its operations in the South China Sea are restricted to civilian efforts. But recently, the U.S. said that China has moved surface-to-air missiles over to one of the islands, though China has declined to state whether or not this assessment is accurate.

Ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to the U.S. this week, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that because the U.S. is not involved in the dispute over the South China Sea, the topic should not even come up in conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry.

“China’s deploying necessary, limited defensive facilities on its own territory is not substantively different from the United States defending Hawaii,” Hua said, effectively admitting that the islands are being militarized. Hua blamed the militarization on U.S. freedom of navigation patrols in the region.

“It’s this that is the biggest cause of the militarization of the South China Sea,” Hua added.  We hope that the United States does not confuse right and wrong on this issue or practice double standards.”

In response to Chinese militarization, U.S Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin stated Monday that surface-to-air missiles won’t stop U.S. patrols or surveillance of the area. In January, the Navy sent a warship by islands in the Paracel chain. China called the incident a breach of the peace and said that the People’s Liberation Army chased the ship out of Chinese territorial waters using an assortment of naval ships and aircraft.

A U.S. official, however, said there was not a single PLA ship in the region.

Aucoin also called for other countries like Australia to follow the lead and conduct freedom of navigation excursions, though he emphasized that this shouldn’t be viewed as a U.S.-China dispute.

“I wish it wasn’t portrayed as U.S. versus China,” Aucoin said. “This shouldn’t seem provocative. What we’re trying to ensure is that all countries, no matter size or strength, can pursue their interests based on the law of the sea and not have that endangered by some of these actions.”

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