By Mahmut Atanur
China reiterated its controversial claim on the Diaoyu Islands – known as “Senkaku Islands” in Japan – in the resource-rich South China Sea.
The reaction came in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama’s remarks during a joint press briefing Tuesday with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House.
Obama expressed concern over alleged Chinese construction in the sea and stressed that a commitment to the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security extends to all Japanese territories, including the contested Senkakus.
Obama claimed that such maritime disputes are the result of conflicts in which China is “flexing its muscles,” rather than resolving issues through normal international dispute settlements.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei emphasized Beijing’s claim during a daily press conference Wednesday.
“No matter what is said or done, the fact remains unchanged that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China,” he said, according to national news agency Xinhua.
Hong emphasized that China will resolutely protect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He maintained that the U.S. should act responsibly and keep its word to stay neutral towards the issues of territorial sovereignty, calling on Washington to play a constructive role in protection of regional peace and stability.
Beijing is reported to have recently undertaken massive island creation projects in the South China Sea atop previously submerged reefs.
U.S. administration officials have warned that such newly formed islands could be used to station naval ships and establish a potential air defense zone like one that Beijing unilaterally declared in 2013 in the East China Sea, and which includes the Senkakus.
The island chain is one of several regional territorial disputes between China and its neighbors in the South and East China seas.
While the Senkakus are controlled by Tokyo, China and Taiwan, each claim the territory as its own.
The Philippines, meanwhile, also has claim, calling the South China Sea the East Philippine Sea.
The South China Sea is a critical world trade route and a potential source of hydrocarbons, particularly natural gas, with competing claims of ownership over the sea and its resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The EIA estimates the South China Sea contains approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 5.7 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. Conventional hydrocarbons mostly reside in undisputed territory. (Anadolu Ajansi)