China says it won’t budge on South China Sea sovereignty


BEIJING — China’s foreign minister took a hard line Tuesday on the country’s claims to virtually all the South China Sea, saying it won’t permit other nations to infringe on what it considers its sovereign rights in the strategically vital area.

Wang Yi, speaking to reporters at an annual news conference in Beijing, said another nation’s claim to freedom of navigation in the region doesn’t give it the right to do whatever it wants — an apparent reference to the U.S., which has sent naval ships past reefs where China has engaged in island-building.

Wang sought to deflect allegations China is militarizing the region by building military facilities on the artificial islands. He said China’s development there was defensive and that other nations were being militaristic — not China.

“China cannot be labeled as the most militaristic. This label is more suited to other countries,” Wang said.

In addition to reaffirming that South China Sea islands are an “integral” part of China’s territory that “every Chinese is obligated to defend,” he reiterated Beijing’s refusal to cooperate with an International Court of Arbitration case brought by the Philippines over disputed claims in the area.

China says it is not bound by the arbitration because it filed a statement in 2006 that it would not accept “compulsory procedures entailing binding decisions” in regard to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Read more: