Tokyo (CNN)China’s attempts to change the status quo in the South China Sea risks provoking a stern response from the international community, Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono told CNN in an exclusive interview Friday.
“Anyone who is trying to change the status quo by force needs to be forced to pay a high cost,” Kono said.
Beijing’s efforts at transforming obscure sandbars and reefs into a string of highly fortified artificial islands stretching hundreds of miles across the South China Sea does not promote or uphold the international order, the defense minister said.
China has stationed missile batteries and deployments of fighter jets and bombers on several of the newly created islands.
“That is destabilizing,” he said. “A free and open maritime order in the South China Sea is as important as any other place and what happens there … will concern the international community.”
Kono is just the latest in a procession of United States and allied leaders to call out China over its actions in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, where it has been pushing its claims of sovereignty over almost all of its 1.3 million square miles.
Late last month, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called on American allies and partners to step up pressure on Beijing, saying the Chinese Communist Party was showing “brazen disregard of international commitments” it has made in the South China Sea.
“Make no mistake, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has been engaged in this sort of behavior for many years,” Esper said in an online speech to the UK- based International Institute of Strategic Studies. “But today, its true intentions are on full display for all to see.”