Beijing Against Conflict With Washington

White House comments on South China Sea have raised tensions between China and the US.White House comments on South China Sea have raised tensions between China and the US.

Beijing has played down the prospects of conflict with the United States over the South China Sea in the wake of aggressive rhetoric by the administration of new US President Donald Trump, saying both sides would lose.

China asserts sovereignty over almost the entire resource-rich region despite rival claims from Southeast Asian neighbors and has rapidly built reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military planes, AFP reported.

The islands are considered a potential flashpoint and recent comments from White House Spokesman Sean Spicer and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have raised the temperature.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on a visit to Australia that war would benefit no one.

“For any sober-minded politician, they clearly recognize that there cannot be conflict between China and the United States,” he said in Canberra through an interpreter late Tuesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

“Both will lose and both sides cannot afford that.”

Spicer last month said the US “is going to make sure we protect our interests” in the South China Sea while Tillerson said China’s access to the islands might be blocked—raising the prospect of a military confrontation.

Wang said the US-China relationship had defied “all sorts of difficulties” over decades and pointed to more recent statements by US Defense Secretary James Mattis that it was important to give priority to diplomatic efforts, ABC said.

On a trip to Japan last week, Mattis said Beijing “has shredded the trust” of regional countries with the military fortification of islands it controls, but balanced the message with a call for disputes to be settled through arbitration and diplomacy.

After scheduled strategic dialogue talks with Wang, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Wednesday said Beijing was keen for a close relationship with the Trump government.

“Beijing certainly welcomes a deep engagement with the United States,” she told Sky News.

“They are looking forward to an era of cooperation. They see opportunity with the new administration to deepen the connections and as he (Wang) said, the United States and China have too much to lose for there to be conflict between them,” she said.

“My impression was that China is looking forward to engaging positively with the United States. We did discuss the South China Sea.”

Bishop said China is now deeply engaged in negotiations, discussions and consultations with the other claimants.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints