July 15, 2014 (LPAC)–China on Tuesday urged “countries outside the region” to stay out of disputes over the South China Sea, after a U.S. official proposed that claimants freeze actions which could change the status quo in the region. The reply came at yesterday’s regular Foreign Ministry briefing.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs, last week at a forum on the South China Sea at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, had called for a voluntary freeze on any actions in the contested islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei noted in his comments yesterday that certain countries (i.e., Japan and the Philippines) had been “illegally occupying” some of the contested islands and reefs since the 1970s, and that China has demanded that the countries withdraw all their personnel and equipment from there.
“Regretfully,” Hong said, “certain countries have strengthened their illegal presence through construction and increased arms build-up to infringe on China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights to which the Chinese side is firmly opposed.” Hong also threw in a dig at the “outsiders” who have butted in to this issue. “We hope that countries outside the region strictly maintain neutrality, clearly distinguish right from wrong, and substantially respect the concerted efforts of the countries in the region to safeguard regional peace and stability.”