Navy commander: South China Sea not a US-versus-China battle

Navy commander: South China Sea not a US-versus-China battle

China also has overlapping claims with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.

Wu Shicun, the head of China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said lessons learnt from the Paracels expansion could be transferred to the Spratlys, particularly to manage water supplies and waste. It has deployed advanced surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island there.

US-led Western countries are aware that China's military presence in the South China Sea would not impact their interests.

"We have said repeatedly with respect to China that the standard that should be applied to all countries with respect to the South China Sea is no militarisation", he added, stating that he expected "further very serious conversations" on the issue.

China has called THAAD deployment in Korea a threat to Chinese security, asserting that the system's radar can track nearby Chinese missiles.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said China should avoid "falling into the Thucydides Trap", where "a rising power creates anxiety among other powers such that conflict occurs".

"The more we can convince China that it's in their long term interest to abide by these global rules as well, the more peace and secure the whole region would be", he said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia that was aired on Monday (Feb 22) night.

Ms Bishop's visit to China last week followed Australia's calls for all claimants to the disputed region to resolve the issue peacefully as tensions escalate between China and Japan.

China's missile deployment on Woody Island is likely to rattle Vietnam the most because of its proximity to the Paracels and because of a history of maritime tensions with China that culminated in 2014 with a standoff after China moved a massive oil rig into disputed waters.

Last week, President Barack Obama said the USA will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever worldwide law allows, and will support the right of all countries to do the same.

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Three runways have recently been completed and China last month announced the first successful test landings of civilian airliners on the new 3,000-metre airstrip at Fiery Cross reef.

The Chinese missiles have been installed on the refurbished Woody Island.

The island is part of the Paracels chain, which has been under Chinese control for more than 40 years but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

"If one looks at the paragraphs in the U.S.-ASEAN joint statement... relating to the South China Sea, that modest but realistic expectation - broad agreement on a set of principles - was met", wrote Prashanth Parameswaran, the associate editor of Washington-based The Diplomat.

The Philippines said it was "gravely concerned" about the reports of missiles being deployed on Woody Island.

"They put into question the good faith of China to work with ASEAN for the early conclusion of the [code of conduct], and to cooperate in the efforts of all parties to find ways forward on the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas]", the statement said.

"These developments further erode trust and confidence and aggravate the already tense situation in the region", the DFA said.

When asked if sending the large USA naval ships and military planes to the region is militarization at a recent press briefing, State Department spokesperson Mark Toner insisted the practice was "basically freedom of navigation".

‪"Alas, if the Obama administration isn't clear intramurally on what America's own policies are, it is ill-equipped to even sit down at a table and discuss it with the Chinese foreign minister much less negotiate anything meaningful".

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