Beijing in uncharted waters as US sails into South China Sea

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Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015.

U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015.

It was a short, well-flagged mission and no shots were fired. But Beijing has been pitched into uncharted waters over how to respond to Tuesday’s operation in which a US warship challenged its claims in the South China Sea.

While state media lit up with emotional appeals to nationalism on Wednesday, the official response has so far been muted.

“China’s defence ministry is strongly opposed to this act and lodges solemn representations,” was all the military could muster on Tuesday, while the foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador to lodge a complaint.

But support seems to be building for a firmer response and one option, alluded to obliquely by one senior official on Tuesday, is to militarise the islands — something Beijing has this far insisted is not its objective.

“We do not hope that in the end China has no choice but to find that it is indeed necessary for us to accelerate and strengthen our capabilities there,” said Lu Kang, a foreign ministry spokesman.

Read more: http://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/28/us-navy-in-south-china-sea-sparks-china-nationalism.html

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