China warns of 'war' after Rex Tillerson's South China Sea remarks

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Jan. 13, 2017 at 9:48 AM
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BEIJING, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- China's state tabloid accused U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state of "rabble rousing" and warned of "war," after Rex Tillerson condemned Beijing's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea during his Senate confirmation hearing.

The Global Times editorial published Friday called Tillerson's suggestion to block China's access to the islands an illegal act that could lead to a major military conflict.

"China has enough determination and strength to make sure that his rabble rousing will not succeed," the editorial read. "Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish."

On Wednesday, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil likened Beijing's land reclamation activities to "Russia's taking of Crimea," a statement China's state-owned news site described as "astonishing."

Tillerson had also said, "We're going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed."

The Beijing newspaper said the suggestion "lacks legality," and credited the Chinese leadership for showing "restraint whenever [Trump's] team members express radical views." It added claimants in the South China Sea "have the ability to solve divergences ... without U.S. interference."

On Thursday Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang defended Beijing's right to remain active in its "sovereign territories" in the South China Sea.

"The United States should stop issuing statements that take a side on the issue of [Chinese] sovereignty" over the islands, Lu said, according to South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo.

During the Senate hearing, Tillerson also described North Korea as an "adversary" and criticized China for making "empty promises" on North Korea.

China has been cooperating on tougher sanctions.

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