China says it never sought to ‘build an empire’ in reply to Pompeo’s claim offshore development is unlawful
Beijing has called the US a “troublemaker” after strong criticism from Washington of its claims in the South China Sea and announced sanctions on Lockheed Martin over arms sales to Taiwan.
The Chinese foreign ministry said the country had never sought to “build an empire” in the disputed waters, hitting back at comments by the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, that “the world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire”.
Pompeo said in a statement on Monday that the US would treat China’s claims as illegal.
“We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them,” he said.
China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday the government would put sanctions on Lockheed Martin, the main contractor for a $620m upgrade package for Taiwan’s Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
Sparring between the two countries has escalated in recent weeks over the imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong, revelations of human rights violations in Xinjiang, and US pressure on its allies to exclude Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from their markets.
China on Tuesday said it was firmly opposed to Washington’s assertions over its claims in the South China Sea, and rejected as “completely unjustified” the allegation that Beijing bullied its neighbours.
“The United States is not a country directly involved in the disputes. However, it has kept interfering in the issue,” the Chinese embassy in the US said in statement published on its website.
“Under the pretext of preserving stability, it is flexing muscles, stirring up tension and inciting confrontation in the region.”
The US has long rejected Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea, which is both home to valuable oil and gas deposits and a vital waterway for the world’s commerce.
Pompeo’s statement on Monday signalled the US’s increasing support for the countries locked in territorial disputes with China over parts of the South China Sea, including the Philippines and Vietnam, after years of the US saying it took no position on individual claims.
“America stands with our south-east Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law,” Pompeo said.
“We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”