Navy Leaders Meet Amidst South China Sea Friction

Navy Leaders Meet Amidst South China Sea Friction

Navy Leaders Meet Amidst South China Sea Friction

China is closing off a part of the South China Sea for military exercises this week, the government said Monday, days after an global tribunal ruled against Beijing's claim to ownership of virtually the entire strategic waterway.

Hainan's maritime administration said an area southeast of the island province would be closed from Monday to Thursday, but gave no details about the nature of the exercises.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said Tuesday he told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, that China's condition "was not consistent with our constitution and our national interest", adding Wang warned that if the Philippines insists on China's compliance to the decision, "we might be headed for a confrontation", Yasay told ABS-CBN network in an interview after he talked with Wang on the sidelines of last weekend's Asia-Europe meeting in Mongolia. It said that China violated the 1982 maritime treaty by building up artificial islands in the South China Sea that destroyed coral reefs and by disrupting Philippine fishing and oil exploration.

Adm. Wu Shengli, head of the Chinese navy, said Monday that Beijing would continue to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea, but that the military has been communicating with Richardson.

The U.S. has conducted three freedom of navigation operations since October in the South China Sea, each time drawing the ire of Beijing.

Wu expressed his hope that the two countries' air and maritime forces fully follow the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and the Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters to avoid strategic misjudgment or exchange of fire, and to jointly ensure the peace and stability of the South China Sea.

A highly-contested region through which roughly $5 trillion in global trade passes annually, most of the South China Sea is claimed by China, though there are overlapping claims by Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. China has said its position has support from numerous countries and has responded with fury to western calls for it to abide by the decision.

"It has not, whether in the past or now, and in the future there won't be a problem as long as nobody plays tricks", Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Joint Staff Department of the powerful Central Military Commission, was quoted as saying.

The two leaders had frank and substantive conversations on the importance of operating safely, in accordance with global law, future opportunities for the two navies to engage and the South China Sea.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. China has built the islands and ignored claims and protests by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

China refuses to recognize the ruling.

"But China consistently opposes so-called military freedom of navigation which brings with it a military threat, and which challenges and disrespects the worldwide law of the sea", he said.

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