China is heightening tensions over rival claims to islands in the South China Sea by issuing inflammatory statements, the State Department said Wednesday.
Spokesman Nicholas Burns said the United States takes no position on the various claims to sovereignty over the Spratly Islands chain but has an important national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation.
A confrontation between Chinese and Filipino vessels over the weekend was followed by a Chinese warning to the Philippines.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang accused the Philippines of encroaching on Chinese sovereignty. He was quoted as saying, “If the other side clings obstinately to its course and willfully takes dangerous actions, it must bear full responsibility for any serious consequences.”
Burns called the statement quite strong and said China should refrain from making such declarations.
“We certainly would call upon all governments in the area to refrain from the threat of force or the use of force to resolve the international dispute in the Spratlys,” he said.
China and Taiwan claim all of the hundreds of islands in the Spratly chain.