AP NEWS
ADVERTISEMENT

China denounces US-Australian navy drills as muscle flexing

June 11, 2021 GMT
1 of 2
In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts routine operations in the Taiwan Strait, May 18, 2021. China on Thursday, May 20, 2021, issued its second protest in as many days over United States naval activity in the region, drawing an unusually sharp response from the U.S. 7th Fleet, which accused Beijing of attempting to assert illegitimate maritime rights at the expense of its neighbors. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zenaida Roth, U.S. Navy via AP)
1 of 2
In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts routine operations in the Taiwan Strait, May 18, 2021. China on Thursday, May 20, 2021, issued its second protest in as many days over United States naval activity in the region, drawing an unusually sharp response from the U.S. 7th Fleet, which accused Beijing of attempting to assert illegitimate maritime rights at the expense of its neighbors. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zenaida Roth, U.S. Navy via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday said the U.S. and Australia were “flexing their muscles” with recent naval drills in the South China Sea, underscoring Beijing’s sensitivity over the strategic waterway it claims as its own.

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Ballarat concluded a week of joint operations in the South China Sea. Those included maneuvering drills along with resupplying vessels, cross-deck helicopter operations and live-fire gunnery exercises.

“The ships honed their advanced mariner skills in a joint environment while enforcing the normalcy of routine operations throughout the region in accordance with international law,” the Navy said.

At a daily briefing in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the two countries should “do things that are conducive to regional peace and stability, instead of flexing their muscles.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The U.S. and China’s neighbors have rejected Beijing’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, through which an estimated $5 trillion in trade travels each year.

Australia has joined them in expressing concern over China’s growing presence in the South China Sea, most notably through its construction of militarized man-made islands built atop coral reefs in the highly disputed Spratly island group. Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have claims that overlap with China’s.

China for its part calls the U.S. naval presence in Southeast Asia the biggest threat to regional security, particularly its insistence on sailing close to Chinese-held territories in what is termed freedom of navigation operations.

In a bid to assuage concerns, Beijing hosted foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations this week, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi telling them China remained committed to signing a long-stalled code of conduct on activities in the South China Sea to prevent conflicts.