Beijing views Washington’s “freedom of navigation” operations as both political and military provocations, and it will continue to monitor air and sea activity closely and take any necessary measures, Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Wu Qian told a regular news briefing on Thursday.

Wu made the remarks in response to media reports that the United States was planning to carry out a third “freedom of navigation” operation to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“We think the US’s so-called freedom of navigation operations pose political and military provocations against China, which could easily lead to mishaps in the sea and air, and are extremely dangerous,” Wu said.

“Freedom of navigation” has become an excuse for the US to meddle in South China Sea disputes, Wu said, adding that free navigation of the South China Sea has never been a problem.

The US operations are promoting militarization and endangering stability, he said.

Asked about calls by some US senators for stepped-up naval activities in the South China Sea, Wu said: “No matter how frequently US ships come to the South China Sea, that will not change the fact that the islands and adjacent islands are China’s inherent territory. It will not stop the pace of China’s growth and development. And even more, it will not shake the will of the People’s Liberation Army to resolutely safeguard the sovereignty and security of China.”

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that even public opinion in the US sees Washington as deliberately enlarging the so-called China threat in the South China Sea.

For example, Hua said, The National Interest, a US international affairs magazine, questioned Washington’s assertion that China’s claims over the South China Sea are affecting international trade in the region, and it asserted that China’s activities in the South China Sea have not damaged US national security.

Jia Duqiang, a Southeast Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said “freedom of navigation” operations are aimed at provoking China, which serves Washington’s “pivot to Asia” strategy.

Escalating tensions in the South China Sea are something that Washington wants, Jia said, because by stirring up trouble between China and some ASEAN countries, these countries will depend on the US for security, which facilitates implementation of the US strategy.

By WANG XU Apr. 29, 2016 on China Daily

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