China said on Friday that it does not intend to pursue militarization of the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea and criticized U.S. air and naval patrols in the region.
China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, adding “China is serious about its commitment not to pursue militarization of the Nansha Islands.”
Greg Austin, a former Australian intelligence analyst, has studied the South China Sea for over 30 years.
He says, China is defending historical claims that were first made in 1933 by the then government and date back almost five centuries.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH): GREG AUSTIN, University of New South Wales
“There is no evidence of any Chinese government attack or pressure on any commercial shipping in the South China Sea since 1949 when the Communist Party took control of the Chinese mainland, and even before.”
The U.S. has claimed that it was sending warships and fighter jets to the region for so-called “freedom of navigation” rights.
But some analysts say, Washington’s real intention goes way beyond its rhetoric.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) HUGH WHITE, Australian National University.
“We are seeing a lot of shadow play here although the U.S. is talking a lot about freedom of navigation it’s undertaking in these transits, I don’t think that’s what America is really worried about. What America is really worried about is the way in which China is growing its maritime power and the way China is using its maritime power to assert and defend its claims in the South China Sea is undermining the traditional idea of the U.S.’s strategic leadership in Asia and the U.S.’s maritime supremacy in Asia.”