China has summoned a US diplomat to protest his government’s criticism of a new military garrison in the South China Sea.
Zhang Kunsheng, the Chinese assistant foreign minister, summoned Robert S Wang, the deputy chief of the US embassy in Beijing, on Saturday to express displeasure with earlier US comments.
The US State Department said on Friday that China’s formal establishment of Sansha City, a garrison on a remote island about 350km from the country’s southern-most province, was risking an escalation in regional tensions.
The garrison, created two weeks ago, is intended to administer hundreds of thousands of square kilometres of water where China wants to strengthen its control over potentially oil-rich islands that are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
The Philippines, a US treaty ally, has described the move as unacceptable, while Vietnam has termed it a violation of international law.
In Beijing, Zhang told Wang: “The [US State Department’s] statement showed total disregard of facts, confounded right and wrong, and sent a seriously wrong message. It is not conducive to efforts by the parties concerned to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific region at large.”
In a separate statement, Qin Gang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, reiterated China’s position that it has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.
“The recent establishment of the Sansha City is a necessary adjustment made by China to the existing local administrative structure and is well within China’s sovereign rights,” Qin said.
Qin accused the United States of taking sides, saying that Washington has not criticised countries whose naval vessels have threatened Chinese fishermen or who have marked out oil and gas blocks in the sea.