John Kerry, US secretary of state, warned China against declaring a second air defence zone three months after Beijing infuriated its neighbours by unilaterally declaring one over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Mr Kerry also said he sought agreement from Chinese officials to pursue their claims in the South China Sea in a peaceful manner, submit them for adjudication, and negotiate a code of conduct with other regional governments that would prevent maritime confrontations from getting out of control.
“It is important to resolve these disputes in a peaceful and non-confrontational way that honours the law of the sea and the rule of law in general,” he said during a visit to Beijing on Friday, amid heightened tensions between China and its neighbours over a range of maritime disputes.
In November China unilaterally declared an “air defence identification zone” in the East China Sea which overlaps with a similar zone declared by Japan and covers a disputed chain of islands. The US strongly criticised the move at the time as a “provocative” action. Ever since there has been speculation in the Chinese press about the declaration of a second ADIZ in the South China Sea to buttress territorial claims there.
Mr Kerry said in response to a question about a second ADIZ in the South China Sea: “With respect to the ADIZ we have indeed made clear our feelings about any unilateral announcements and I reiterated that again today. And I hope that whatever follows in the future will be done in an open transparent and accountable way.”
An ADIZ requires foreign aircraft entering the airspace to identify themselves, and Chinese officials have stressed it is not a territorial claim. But Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said the creation of the zone “may indirectly support territorial claims”.
Following criticism of the ADIZ last month, the US again singled out China’s territorial claims earlier this month when Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state, said in testimony to the US Congress that China’s claim to much of the South China sea, known as the “nine dash line”, was “fundamentally flawed”. It was the first time the US has explicitly challenged the Chinese claim.
Wang Yi, Chinese foreign minister, told Mr Kerry on Friday that he hoped the US would respect China’s “sovereign rights”, “treat the issue objectively and fairly” and not take sides, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Tempers in Beijing are frayed because many Chinese believe they have the right to assert control of their environment in the western Pacific. Wu Shicun, director of the South China Sea Institute, said: “I don’t think the US has a right to interfere in the issue; the US is trying to use the South China Sea as a vehicle to contain China.”
目前北京方面态度强硬，因为很多中国人相信，他们有权掌控自身在西太平洋的环境。中国南海研究院(South China Sea Institute)院长吴士存表示：“我不认为美国在这个问题上有干涉权；美国正试图利用南海作为一种工具来遏制中国。”