China rebuts U.S. acting defense secretary’s remarks on South China Sea

China firmly objects U.S. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s remarks on the South China Sea in his speech at the 18th Shangri-La Dialogue.

Lieutenant General Shao Yuanming, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission voiced this position here on Saturday.

Commenting on Shanahan’s remarks accusing China of sabotaging freedom of navigation and pushing forward the militarization of islands and reefs in the South China Sea, Shao said China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands and reefs and the neighboring waters in the South China Sea, based on sufficient historical and legal facts.

For a long time, the normal navigation and overflight activities in the South China Sea region by various countries have always been smooth and uninterrupted. “The freedom of navigation and overlight has never been an issue,” he said.

The United States has been dispatching warships and aircraft to the nearby airspace and waters of the South China Sea islands and reefs, and implementing frequent close-up reconnaissance and targeted military drills. These acts are harmful to regional peace and stability, Shao said.

“We deploy necessary defense facilities according to the security situation faced by the islands and reefs of the South China Sea. This is the absolute right of a sovereign country, and the necessary response to provocative actions,” he said.

Shao said under the joint efforts of China and other countries along the South China Sea, mutual trust among regional countries has been notably strengthened, and the overall situation of the South China Sea is stable and improving.

“Countries in the region have absolute willingness, wisdom and capability to contain differences, jointly promote peace, and build the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation,” the senior Chinese official said.

Chinese State Councilor and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe held “positive and constructive” talks with Shanahan here on Friday, with both sides agreeing that a stable China-U.S. military relationship is very important, Shao said.

“The two militaries will firmly implement the consensuses reached by the two heads of state, deepen exchanges and cooperation, contain divergence and risks, so as to make the bilateral military relationship the stabilizer of bilateral relations,” he said.