By Kirsten Han
SINGAPORE (AA) – With tensions in the South China Sea once again dominating a regional summit, China has accused the United States of “provocations” in the area for selfish interests -- its latest salvo fired at Washington.
"China and ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] are capable of preserving peace and stability in the South China Sea through cooperation. Countries outside should play a constructive role in this regard, not the other way around,” Admiral Sun Jianguo, chief of the Chinese delegation, told the conference in Singapore on Sunday, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
China claims virtually the entire area, while other Southeast Asian governments have overlapping partial claims. The U.S., meanwhile, has expressed fears that Beijing's buildup of airstrips on artificial islands it has built on once-submerged reefs could impede freedom of navigation in the area.
On Saturday morning, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had described Chinese activity in the disputed area as “self-isolating”.
“Unfortunately, if these actions continue, China could end up erecting a Great Wall of self-isolation,” he said in his plenary speech.
Speaking at a special session on Sunday morning, Sun dismissed Carter’s criticism.
"We are not isolated and we will not be isolated in the future," he said.
"Actually I am worried some people and countries are still looking at China with the Cold War mentality and are prejudiced. They may build a wall in their mind and end up isolating themselves.”
Sun also slammed the Philippines for bringing an arbitration case to an international tribunal in The Hague regarding the two countries’ territorial dispute over areas including the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands.
The tribunal is expected to deliver its ruling soon.
"The purpose of the PH [Philippines] is to cover up its illegal occupancy of some reefs in the Nansha islands,” the admiral claimed, using the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.
He added that the arbitration would not be “applicable to the dispute” as bilateral negotiations are the only way the matters can be settled. China will therefore not “recognize or honor” the decision of the tribunal.
"China will not bear with the arbitration award, nor will it allow any infringement on its sovereignty and security interest or stay indifferent to the irresponsible behavior of some in the South China Sea,” he said.
He reiterated China’s promise to seek resolution to disputes through peaceful negotiations with other claimants of territory in the South China Sea, and warned other countries about interference.
"Any countries not directly concerned are not allowed to sabotage our path of peace for selfish gains," he said.