BEIJING: China could set up an air defence identification zone over the South China Sea if it felt threatened, a senior diplomat said amid rising maritime tensions caused by the Philippines’ arbitration case.
The declaration of such a zone, which would require aircraft entering the zone to identify themselves to the military, will depend on “the level of threat we receive,” said Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.
“If our security is being threatened, of course we have the right to demarcate a zone. This would depend on our overall assessment,” Liu said, adding that other countries should not “take this opportunity to threaten China”.
“China’s aim is to turn the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation,” he added.
Liu made the remarks at a news conference on Wednesday, during which a white paper was released by the State Council Information Office. The five-chapter white paper elaborated on China’s policy of adhering to “the position of settling through negotiation the disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea”.
The core of the China- Philippines disputes lies in territorial issues caused by the Philippines’ invasion and illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, the white paper said.
Liu accused the judges of the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague, which announced its ruling on Tuesday, of “making money from the Philippines” and that “maybe other people gave them money too”.
The tribunal, which ruled that China has no “historic title” over the South China Sea, has no jurisdiction over sovereignty issues, Liu said.
A Japanese former president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Shunji Yanai, “manipulated the entire proceedings” from behind the scenes, he added.
The diplomat also questioned whether the five judges, four from European Union countries and the Ghanaian chairman, a longtime resident of Europe, could understand Asia’s complex geographic politics.
“I hope you put this (arbitral) decision in the wastepaper basket or on the bookshelf or filing cabinet and keep it there,” Liu said.
China hoped the Philippines’ new government would not use the arbitration results, he added.
He said China was willing to negotiate with its South China Sea neighbours on jointly exploiting oil and gas resources in the waters.
Guo Weimin, vice-minister of the State Council Information Office,, said at the news conference that Chinese deem the South China Sea as their “ancestors’ sea”, where arbitration “could not make a wave”. — China Daily / Asia News Network
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