China rejects US concerns over South China Sea militarisation


Xi Jinping tells Jim Mattis that China will not yield ‘one inch’ of disputed maritime area

China’s President Xi Jinping told visiting US defence secretary Jim Mattis that China would not yield “one inch” of the South China Sea, rebuffing Washington’s efforts to engage Beijing on the issue.

Mr Mattis was visiting the Chinese capital for three days as part of a tour of Asia. On Thursday he flew to Seoul and reassured South Korean leaders that there would be no change in US forces stationed on the Korean peninsula following moves towards peace with Pyongyang.

One of his primary aims in China was to deliver what he called a “medium tough” message to Beijing, warning against what Washington sees as Beijing’s militarisation of several artificial islands it has dredged in the South China Sea.

Mr Xi, however, poured cold water on his efforts, restating Beijing’s long-held position that Chinese territorial waters include most of the South China Sea. Beijing claims roughly 90 per cent of the sea via what is known as the nine-dash line — an assertion that was shot down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016. China has ignored the ruling.

“We cannot lose even one inch of the territory left behind by our ancestors,” said the Chinese leader, according to state media, referring to Taiwan as well as the South China Sea. “What is other people’s, we do not want at all.”

In May, China reportedly installed long-range anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles on three of its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Beijing justified its moves by suggesting that US naval manoeuvres in the sea contributed to militarisation of the area.