China gains ASEAN support for South China Sea activities

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |  Jan. 22, 2018 at 10:48 AM
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Jan. 22 (UPI) -- China's foreign ministry extended its gratitude to Indonesia's defense minister after he reportedly expressed support for China's policies in the South China Sea.

Beijing's diplomatic spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday at a regular press briefing Ryamizard Ryacudu's comments reflect the common interests of Southeast Asia and China, Xinhua reported.

"The words of Minister Ryacudu reflect the active and sincere willingness of China and ASEAN member countries to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," Hua said.

Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue 2018 in New Delhi last week, Ryacudu had said the situation in the South China Sea has improved significantly, and that the current status quo needs to be maintained, according to Xinhua.

China has been able to ramp up efforts in militarizing disputed islands in the maritime region in 2017, and most recently warned a U.S. vessel that sailed near the Scarborough Shoal.

ASEAN states including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia originally voiced opposition to Chinese activities.

But as China is recasting itself as an overseer of maritime security, countries like the Philippines are sending a different kind of message: a desire to stay out of involvement.

Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said Sunday the Philippines does "not wish to be part of a U.S.-China intramural," after the U.S. missile destroyer USS Hopper sailed near the China-claimed shoal.

Following the event the Chinese government strongly condemned U.S. defense strategy.

Hua said Monday the United States' tactics are working toward a "Cold War-style incident."

"China is the builder of world peace and a protector of the international order," the spokeswoman said.

Beijing also criticized the Trump administration for attacking China's trade policies.

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