KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday accused China of restricting navigation and overflights in the disputed South China Sea, despite giving assurances that such movements would not be impeded.
Addressing a regional meeting in Kuala Lumpur that has been dominated by the South China Sea, Kerry said China’s construction of facilities for “military purposes” on man-made islands was raising tensions and risked “militarization” by other claimant states.
Kerry’s blunt criticism of Beijing, in front of his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, is likely to lift the South China Sea up the agenda when Chinese President Xi Jinping visits Washington next month, some experts said.
“Freedom of navigation and overflight are among the essential pillars of international maritime law,” Kerry told the East Asia Summit attended by foreign ministers from around the region.
“Despite assurances that these freedoms would be respected, we have seen warnings issued and restrictions attempted in recent months,” Kerry said.