China has sought to ease tensions with the United States in the South China Sea by calling for dialogue, following incident at sea, which has inflamed passions inside the country, and triggered calls for a more assertive response from Beijing.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, at his regular briefing said, in response to a question, that, “China continues to insist on resolving this issue through dialogue and it is China’s consistent position that relevant issue should be resolved though a dialogue not only with the U.S. but also with other countries around the world.”
Tensions between Beijing and Washington in the South China Sea had spiked after the U.S. warship, USS Lassen, breached the 12 nautical mile zone of an artificial island in the Spratly island chain, over which China claims and exercises sovereignty.
Lu, however, asserted that the U.S. “provocation” had “violated the UN commission on the law of the sea, relevant international law and China’s domestic law”.
Lu’s calibrated remarks, opening space for talks, coincided with the anticipation that, for the moment, both China and the U.S., were likely to curb escalation of tensions.
Analysts say that the U.S. action has triggered speculation inside China that Washington has decided to bury the formulation proposed by President Xi that China and the U.S. should establish a peaceful and collaborative “major-country” relationship.
The fury caused by the incident has generated strong undercurrents inside the Chinese online media space and the blogosphere. The website of the Beijing based Sina Military News warned that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may deliberately ram a vessel into a warship if the U.S. Navy makes further inroads into waters claimed by China.
It pointed out that China could follow the “effective”example of the former Soviet Union, which had sent two frigates to ram a US guided missile cruiser that had ventured into its territorial waters in 1988.
The Soviets issued a statement the next day claiming that the two frigates had “lost control,” eventually leading to discussions about maritime safety between the two governments.
In August, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi had strongly defended China’s assertion of sovereignty in an area defined by the nine-dash-line in the South China Sea.
In an August 6 meeting of the of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Mr. Wang asserted that China’s status on the South China Sea rested on firm legal foundations of the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, which were central in defining the post-war global architecture.
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