China has warned Tokyo against “playing with fire” and joining US-led naval “patrols” and “exercises” in the disputed South China Sea, telling Japan, which is “outside the region”, that it should stop meddling in affairs that are none of its concern.
Earlier in September Tokyo announced plans to increase joint military activities with the US in southeast Asia to counter Chinese dominance. The Chinese Defense Ministry warned Tokyo on Thursday that Beijing would not just sit idle and watch the Japanese side with the US.
“We’d like to tell the Japanese side that if Japan wants to conduct joint patrols and joint exercises in China-administered waters, it is just like playing fire and the Chinese military will not sit idle,” Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said at a monthly news briefing.
Besides issuing a warning, Yujun also accused Japan of interfering with Chinese affairs around the disputed waters through which around $5 billion worth of trade passes annually.
“Japan, as a country outside the South China Sea region, has always been attempting to mess up the South China Sea situation and trying to gain interests from the troubled waters,” the spokesman stressed.
The US this year intensified constant warship maneuvering near artificial islands that Beijing built in the South China Sea. Washington argues that sailing and flights over the disputed waters are conducted according to the Freedom of Navigation (FON) which has been part of an American policy under the Law of the Sea (LOS) Convention since 1983. China has repeatedly warned against such provocations.
The Spratly Islands, or Spratlys, comprise more than 750 islets, atolls, and reefs, and lie off the coastlines of Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and China, with all the claimants having their own national names for the archipelago. Beijing continues to claim the reefs in defiance of a Hague International Arbitration Court verdict.