China has reiterated that it respects the freedom of navigation but it will not permit other countries to use such principals to undermine its sovereignty.
“China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight all countries enjoy under international law…But we are consistently opposed to relevant countries threatening and damaging the sovereignty and security of littoral countries under the flag of freedom of navigation and overflight,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Tuesday.
He added that his country hopes that other countries would do more to maintain regional peace and stability.
Geng’s remarks were China’s first official response to the US navy announcing on Saturday that a strike group, including the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, had engaged in "routine operations" in the South China Sea.
Last week, China warned the US against any military activities in the South China Sea, following reports that Washington was planning to conduct naval patrols in the disputed area.
The South China Sea is the subject of a territorial dispute between China and several regional countries. Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei all have overlapping claims with China over disputed territories in the South China Sea. But those countries seem to have been managing their disputes with China smoothly.
The US, on the other hand, has time and again risked heightening tensions with China through military presence in the South China Sea, questioning Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over the disputed waters, which are located far from US territory. China says Washington is meddling in the regional issues and is deliberately escalating the situation in the waters.