Xi Jinping says only nations directly involved can discuss South China Sea disputes

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved by the countries directly involved in the dispute, not by outside forces, according to Chinese President Xi Jinping.  He has also warned against a military escalation on the Korean peninsula and an international crisis for possible (new) nuclear tests by Pyongyang.  His government is in favor of the “denuclearization,” of the nation to be achieved through dialogue and civil confrontation.

Returning to the disputes in the seas, Beijing’s leaders stated that the differences of opinion must be addressed “with negotiations between the States concerned”. The words of the Chinese president came on the eve of the verdict of the international court at The Hague, called to decide on Beijing’s territorial claims in the seas of the Asia-Pacific region.

The dispute was dragged before the courts by the Philippines, who have long opposed the “imperialist” and expansionist politics of the Land of the Dragon. China has refused to take part in the arbitration, claiming that the court has no jurisdiction.

However, confirming Beijing’s projects in the South China Sea, is the recent construction of artificial atolls on which the government first placed landing strips for aircraft (military) and then lighthouses, to ensure the safety of navigation to their boats.

The latest lighthouse became operative in early April on Subi Reef, an artificial island built by China in the context of the expansion at the expense of Vietnam and the Philippines. It led to the creation of other artificial atolls on Mischief Reef  and Fiery Cross Reef.

Last year, there was a near-miss in a military incident between Beijing and Washington in the same area, when a US warship passed through the area to challenge the territorial claims of Beijing, provoking the wrath of the Chinese government.

Meanwhile, foreign ministers from Asia and the Middle East are gathering in the Chinese capital, to attend the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, which begins today. Addressing the participants, Xi Jinping stressed the importance of “resolving disputes in a peaceful manner” through “talks and friendly negotiations” with the counterparties.

The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. The Philippines – which is seeking a non-binding international ruling at the UN court – together with Vietnam, is increasingly worried about Beijing’s imperialism in the South China and East China seas.

For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing’s so-called ‘cow tongue’ line – which covers 80% of the 3.5 km2 – is both “illegal” and “irrational”.