Hopes relevant countries respect China’s sovereignty: Hong Lei
China has said that it “opposes any unilateral energy exploration” in the South China Sea, in response to Monday’s statement by Navy Chief Admiral D.K. Joshi that the Indian Navy was prepared to protect its interests and deploy its forces in the contested waters.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said China “hopes relevant countries respect China’s sovereignty and national interests,” when asked at a regular press briefing about Admiral Joshi’s comments.
“China opposes any unilateral energy exploration and development activities in the disputed areas in the South China Sea,” he was quoted as saying by the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper.
China, he said, hoped “relevant countries” respected its “sovereignty and national interests” and supported “the efforts of countries within the region to resolve disputes through bilateral negotiations.”
Admiral Joshi had said in response to questions at a press briefing on Monday that the Indian Navy was “prepared” to go to the South China Sea to protect Indian interests. ONGC Videsh is now involved in three oil exploration blocks off the coast of Vietnam in the South China Sea, whose waters and islands are contested by China, Vietnam and several other countries.
On Tuesday, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who was here on a two-day visit, played down the remarks, saying that the issue did not figure during his talks with the Chinese leadership. Mr. Menon said the media had “manufactured” a story by getting the Navy Chief to comment on the matter, adding that the Chinese side recognised that “the media plays a role.”
In recent weeks and months, a number of commentaries in the Chinese State-run media have debated India’s role in the United States move to “pivot” to Asia and strengthen its presence in the region, against the backdrop of resurfacing territorial disputes between China and a number of its neighbours, including Vietnam and the Philippines.
“The close historical and religious ties between India and Southeast Asian nations give India the advantage in asserting its role in the region,” Zhuang Guotu, head of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
“As for China,” he said, “India poses far less of a threat than the U.S. and Japan, because what India can offer to Southeast Asian nations is much less than what the U.S. and Japan can offer.”
“The real threat posed by India to China is the military cooperation between India and Vietnam,” added Du Jifeng, a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Moreover, India is now controlling several Indian Ocean islands at the entrance of the Malacca Strait, an international energy channel that sees 80 per cent of Chinese oil imports passing by every year.”