China has slammed the US for military “provocations” in the contested waters of the South China Sea and deployed its aircraft carrier there after the Pentagon has beefed up drills in the area.
Beijing “urges the US side to stop flexing muscles in the South China Sea and do not provoke and escalate tensions” in the region, Defense Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian told reporters in Bangkok, Thailand on Monday.
Wu reiterated that China considers a US Navy presence in the South China Sea to be an intervention and a threat to its national interest. In September, the Pentagon carried out its first-ever joint military exercise with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional bloc, whose several members are in territorial disputes with Beijing.
Pentagon chief Mark Esper called Chinese activities in the region “a threat… to many Southeast Asian nations,” and slammed Beijing’s territorial claims as “unlawful and unreasonable.”
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On Monday, China confirmed that its first domestically-built aircraft carrier, Liaoning, had entered the South China Sea after sailing through the Taiwan Strait. The US and Japanese warships closely followed Liaoning, whose movements also prompted protests from Taipei.
The Chinese military, however, said that the voyage was a routine training mission, “not aimed at any specific target.” The carrier has already embarked on another mission in the area.
Despite exchanging diplomatic jabs, Esper held a short meeting with his Chinese counterpart, General Wei Fenghe, over the weekend. Both sides agreed to seek dialogue in the future.
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