Beijing plans S. China Sea buildup after US warship makes second pass near island: Gertz


China toned down vitriolic rhetoric in response to the recent passage of a US warship near a disputed island in the South China Sea.

USS Curtis Wilbur
Guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur
Chinese government-controlled media outlets, however, seized on the transit of the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur on Jan. 30 within 12 miles of Triton Island in the Paracels archipelago with stepped up threats to deploy missiles and warplanes on some of its 3,200 acres of newly-created islands.

Analysis of official Chinese statements after the unannounced warship transit shows Beijing backed off from more threatening rhetoric used after an earlier warship passage in October.

Official PRC spokesmen pointedly failed to use the same level of pitched criticism that followed the destroyer USS Lassen’s 12-nautical mile sail near Subi Reef in the Spratlys during the second incident.

China denounced the Subi Reef passage, where China is building an airstrip for potential military use, by asserting Beijing’s “resolute opposition,” “solemn representations,” and “solemn warning” to the United States.

Those terms were absent in response to what the Pentagon called a routine freedom of navigation operation designed to challenge the island maritime claims of China, Vietnam and Taiwan – all of whom assert sovereignty over the Parcels, known by China as the Xisha chain.

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