BEIJING — China on Wednesday reiterated that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over islands in the South China Sea after the United States pledged to help the Philippines, which has its own claims in the area.
A spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, Yang Yi, also repeated the government position that safeguarding the sovereignty of the area’s potentially resource-rich islets was a “common responsibility” for Beijing and Taipei.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters,” Yang told reporters, according to an official transcript.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, which is believed to have vast oil and gas deposits, while its shipping lanes are vital for global trade.
Vietnam as well as the Philippines have in recent months accused China of taking increasingly aggressive actions in staking its claim to the disputed waters and its archipelagos.
In response, China has insisted it wants to resolve the territorial dispute peacefully but remained firm in its claims to most of the South China Sea, even waters within the Philippines’ economic exclusion zone.
The United States and the Philippines on Tuesday launched joint naval exercises in Philippine waters close to the much coveted South China Sea.
The commander of the US 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral Scott Van Buskirk, described America and the Philippines as “allies” and said “that is the strongest and most enduring commitment the two nations can make”.
“Our alliance is underpinned by a deep and abiding US interest in the freedom and security of the Republic of the Philippines,” he added.