(NationalSecurity.news) Despite a ruling by an international body that China’s outsized sovereignty claims over much of the South China Sea are illegal, Beijing is nonetheless reasserting its right dominate the region, where it has also constructed several manmade islands and atolls.
As reported by The Associated Press, Beijing’s doubling down on its prior commitment to defend its territorial and maritime claims in the region is creating new tension with the United States and other southeast Asian countries who have rival claims in the South China Sea.
Chang Wanquan, China’s defense minister, told a reception earlier this week that Beijing planned to resolutely protect its “state sovereignty, national security and developmental interests.”
“Territorial integrity and maritime rights and interests will be defended,” Chang was cited as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency, which is run by the Chinese government.
That said, Chang claimed that the Chinese military is “destined not to fear war, but will definitely cherish peace.”
Chinese military forces have not seen major combat since the country invaded neighboring Vietnam in 1979, a short war that ended in stalemate whose outcome many historians believe favored Hanoi.
The AP noted that Chang’s statements followed heightened tensions in the South China Sea region following a ruling by a UN arbitration panel on July 12, which found that Beijing’s claim to most of the region has no legal footing. China openly rejected the case from the outset, as well as the panel’s final ruling. The case was brought by the Philippines.
Chinese officials have since said the ruling will have no bearing on Beijing’s increasing military and civilian footholds in the critical body of water, through which $5 trillion a year in trade and commerce flow.
The U.S. has pledged to continue ramping up patrols in the area to ensure freedom of navigation, a commitment that has agitated China but is seen as reassuring to U.S. allies in the region.
Chang spoke ahead of Army Day, which was Monday, marking the 89th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army. The force has been dramatically increasing its combat capabilities and technology in recent years, as has the People’s Liberation Army Navy and the air force.
“The PLA is a chief driver behind the construction of man-made islands in the South China Sea built by piling sand on top of coral reefs, and is firmly in alignment with President Xi Jinping’s more muscular foreign policy,” the AP noted.
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