China has exercised “enormous restraint” in the face of US “provocations” in the South China Sea, the nation’s top admiral said, as a regional row intensified over the strategic waterway.
“If the United States carries out repeated provocations despite China’s opposition, we have the ability to defend our national sovereignty and security,” navy commander Wu Shengli was quoted as saying late Thursday on the Defence Ministry’s website.
He made the remarks in a meeting with US Admiral Scott Swift, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, reports said.
China says it has a historical right to almost the entire South China Sea, but its claims are contested by several countries that border the sea.
The US has sent two warships and a bomber into the disputed area, provoking an angry responses from Beijing, which called the actions “illegal.”
Washington should stop “making waves in the South China Sea and then pointing a finger at others on trumped-up charges,” an editorial by the official Xinhua news agency said on Friday.
US President Obama raised US objections to Chinese reclamation activities in the South China Sea during an economic summit in Manila earlier this week, despite Beijing’s desire to keep the issue off the table.
He was expected to raise the issue again at a meeting of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in Kuala Lumpur.
Aside from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam all have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, a key shipping lane believed to be rich in mineral and marine resources.