HANOI – China on Wednesday criticized the United States for directly intervening in territorial and maritime disputes in Asia during a gathering that brought together foreign ministers from the Southeast Asian nations and other regional powers.
The United States is becoming the biggest driver of militarization in the South China Sea, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the online ministerial meeting of the 18-member East Asia Summit, according to his ministry, in remarks that could add tension to the feud between Washington and Beijing over the contested waters.
Relations between the two countries have deteriorated further in past months as their standoff deepens over a range of issues, including Hong Kong and the South China Sea, which is contested by China and several Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines.
The United States in July toughened its policy with regard to the South China Sea, calling Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the waters “completely unlawful.”
Wang said at the meeting, chaired by Vietnam, that the United States is provoking confrontation between the countries in the region even though Beijing and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are seeking to resolve South China Sea disputes through consultation.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said he shared his grave concern with other members over continuing attempts to unilaterally change the status quo in the South and East China seas, apparently in reference to China’s assertiveness in both of the disputed bodies of water.
While Japan is not a party to disputes in the South China Sea, it relies on shipping lanes in the area and faces Beijing’s separate claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Motegi also expressed strong concern over the situation in Hong Kong as China tightens its grip on the former British colony through national security legislation that has sparked international condemnation for eroding the island’s freedom and rights, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s press release.