China warns US, others in South China Sea: ‘Stop stirring trouble’



MANILA, Philippines — China warned the United States and other nations against stirring up trouble in the “calm” South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Wednesday said the presence of the US and other “non-regional forces” could stir up the South China Sea, which he said is already calm.

Lu made the statement when asked to comment on the presence of USS Wasp in the disputed waters near the Philippines and the shoals.

“I may need to check on the specific situation. I can tell you that the principled position of the Chinese side is that we hope non-regional forces will refrain from stirring up troubles in the calm South China Sea,” Lu said.

The USS Wasp, a helicopter carrier of the US Marines with F35B Lightning II stealth fighter jets, was spotted near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal that China has occupied since 2012.

Officials said the ship was participating in this year’s joint Balikatan exercises with the Philippine military.

Reports said fishermen from Zambales on their way to fish in Chinese-controlled Panatag Shoal saw fighter jets taking off and landing on the aircraft carrier.

Officials said the USS Wasp was only around 35 to 40 nautical miles off Zambales. Panatag is farther away at around 160 nautical miles from the mainland.

Malacañang said on Wednesday it would consider Chinese presence near islands occupied by Filipinos an assault on Philippine sovereignty.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo emphasized the Chinese have “no business being there.”

Panelo was reacting to the reported presence of Chinese vessels off Kota Island and Panatag last March 28.

Chinese fishing boats, Coast Guard vessels and maritime militia ships also “swarmed” the areas surrounding Pag-asa Island, the largest of nine Philippine-controlled islets in the disputed Spratlys region.

Officials said the swarming was an effort by the Chinese to stymie the further development of the island.