The US will continue to carry out military maneuvers in the South China Sea despite growing tensions with Beijing, US Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters.
“We will continue this [military maneuvers],” said Mattis on Tuesday. “There is only one country that seems to be taking active steps to resist them or to assert their resentment towards them,” he said. “But they are international waters and many nations want to see freedom of navigation.”
Mattis said that despite Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge not to militarize the Spratly Islands, Beijing has transferred its military equipment there.
In 2016, the International Criminal Court in The Hague ruled that Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over the waters of the South China Sea had no legitimate basis. China denied the decision, insisting that the country held sovereignty over the area, thus challenging the decision of the international court.
Earlier this month, the White House announced that Washington had directly warned Beijing of the consequences of continued militarization of the South China Sea.
On the contrary, Russian colonel and military expert Andrei Golovatyuk has argued that the reason for the escalation of tensions around the disputed territory are the provocative actions of the United States.
“Since 1974, China has begun to establish control over the [Paracel] islands, but they remain a disputed territory. […] However, the United States does not recognize Chinese jurisdiction. They have violated China’s territorial integrity according to Chinese law, and the United States does not agree with it and says they can carry out their maneuvers wherever they wish,” he said.
According to the analyst, this is an explosive situation.
“This is a challenge for China and an act of insolence and disrespect towards Beijing. Now they will start mutual accusations.I would not like this incident to become a large-scale confrontation since the region is so militarized … a spark is enough to trigger a major fire, and I hope the Chinese will show wisdom and not succumb to the provocations of the Americans,” said Andrei Golovatyuk.