BEIJING―China said Monday it will not militarize the disputed South China Sea and rejected suggestions the structures it is building in some contested islands are for military purposes.
Yao Wen, deputy director general and counselor for Policy Planning in the Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said China will pursue a peaceful resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea and insisted that the disputes be resolved by negotiations among China, the Philippines and the other claimant-countries.
He bewailed the exercise of the so-called “freedom of navigation” by countries not directly involved in the row.
“China will never seek the militarization of the South China Sea, but we are worried about the so-called freedom of navigation activities conducted by relevant countries,” Wen told journalists from 19 Asian countries including the Philippines, who were invited to cover the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China on Oct. 18.
Wen said China was consistent in its position that “the relevant issues should be peacefully resolved by negotiations between directly involved sovereign states.”
He said China’s construction activities in some areas in the disputed territorial waters were “within our sovereignty,” adding “there are some projects that are actually intended for public good, for example, the lighthouse and hospital.”
But China has warned that the exercise by some countries of what they called “freedom of navigation” in the disputed South China Sea could lead to some “misjudgment” or conflicts.
“Sometimes the vessels of relevant countries come as near five to six nautical miles of the Island of Rees where our staff stations, and it is highly dangerous and that may easily lead to misjudgment and even conflicts.” Wen said.
China has praised its warming relations with the Philippines since the ascension into power of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“China and the Philippines are friendly neighbors and in recent years we have our relations strained, and now we are back with some positive developments,” Wen told the Filipino journalists, recalling that President Duterte visited China where he participated in a forum for international cooperation.