A top Chinese general has blamed the US “pivot” to Asia for escalating tensions in the South China Sea that have sparked violent anti-China riots across Vietnam, forcing factories to shut production.
Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the Chinese military, said during a visit to the Pentagon that Washington should hold an “objective view” of the disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea.
“The ones that are provoking those issues in the South China Sea is not China but certain countries that are attempting to gain their own interest because they believe China is now developing its economy and the US is adopting this Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy,” Gen Fang said in a press briefing on Thursday.
Sino-Vietnamese relations have plunged into crisis after China started drilling for oil in waters near the disputed Paracel Islands – which China controls and calls the Xisha – in the South China Sea. The incident is the latest escalation in maritime tensions between China and its neighbours, including the Philippines.
Gen Fang blamed Vietnam for the tensions which have sparked a stand-off between Chinese and Vietnamese ships near the oil rig that is owned by Cnooc, a Chinese state-controlled energy company. He said China was drilling within 12 nautical miles – the territorial waters – of the Paracels. China has controlled them since 1974 following a brief conflict with Vietnam, but Hanoi still claims the islands.
“The related countries in the South China Sea region have drilled actually many oil wells in the South China Sea, but China has never drilled even one,” said Gen Fang. “From this single fact, we can see how much restraint China has exercised.”
Speaking alongside him was Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, who offered little rebuttal. Gen Fang said China could not understand why it was being singled out for criticism.
“We don’t quite understand why there are no comments from the outside when other nations are drilling so many oil wells in the region, but when China starts to do the drilling, we instantly become a threat to the region,” said Gen Fang. “The external world should view this issue in an objective and fair manner.”
中越关系间的危机，始于中国在南中国海帕拉塞尔群岛(Paracel Islands, 中国称为西沙群岛)附近水域启动的钻井作业。中国拥有该群岛的控制权。中国最近在海上与包括菲律宾在内的多个邻国处于紧张状态，而这次冲突标志着态势的最新升级。