New Zealand denounces China’s belligerence – and Beijing bristles
NATO held its Madrid summit on June 29 and several alliance partners – Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea – attended for the first time.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke of the need for a rules-based international order and said a Sino-Russian alliance and China’s “growing assertiveness” are threats.
In a first for a New Zealand political leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed the 28 NATO members. She called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “Russia’s war against all who have a basic sense of humanity and choose to act on it.”
Ardern said China has become “more assertive and more willing to challenge international rules and norms.”
“Here we have to respond to the actions we see,” she said. “We must stand firm on the rules-based order, call for diplomatic engagement and speak out against human rights abuses anytime, when and where we see them.”
This prompted a response from the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand.
“We have taken note of the pertinent comment made by the New Zealand side during the NATO session, which includes erroneous accusations against China, saying that “China has also become more assertive lately and more willing to defying international rules and norms.’ This allegation is false and therefore regrettable,” the embassy said.
“China is firmly committed to upholding multilateralism, supporting the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on the United Nations Charter, international law and universally recognized basic norms governing international relations.” .
The problem is that China’s actual behavior exposes this as false. China has repeatedly flouted rules and norms and bullied other countries, especially in the South China Sea.
New Zealand has been less critical of China than other Western countries. However, according to Reuters, New Zealand is increasingly concerned about a security pact between China and the neighboring Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands insists it will not allow China to build a military base there. But analysts say New Zealand fears Beijing could use the pact to gain a strategic foothold and possibly establish a military presence.
There is also ambiguity around China’s efforts to upgrade a naval base in Cambodia, which unnamed Western officials say China will be able to use exclusively.
A Chinese official in Beijing told the Washington Post that “part of the base” would be used by “the Chinese military”, contradicting claims that it was only for the Cambodian navy.
But while Beijing’s intentions in Cambodia and the Solomon Islands remain somewhat unclear, its persistent aggression in the South China Sea – most of which Beijing claims as its own – is abundantly documented.
On June 10, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs filed a diplomatic protest against China’s actions near the Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal. It was the second complaint that week and the Philippines’ 300th diplomatic protest against Chinese actions that the Philippines considers illegal.
The shoal, in the disputed Spratly Islands, is part of the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and is militarily occupied by the Philippines.
The Philippine Foreign Ministry said the Chinese Coast Guard ships had “followed Philippine boats on a rotation and resupply mission”, the Philippine News Agency reported. China has been accused of fishing illegally in the area and installing buoys and fishing nets “which blocked the entrance to the shoal”.
“The 2016 arbitration award confirmed that Ayungin Shoal is within the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of the Philippines. China has no right to fish, monitor or interfere with legitimate (Philippine) activities there,” the Philippine Foreign Ministry said.
China rejects the 2016 decision, in which the arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague rebuked China’s broad claims to the South China Sea and reaffirmed the Philippines’ right to operate in its EEZ.
In November 2021, the Chinese Coast Guard blocked and used water cannons against Filipino supply vessels heading for the shoal, forcing them to turn back.
On June 9, the Philippines “protested against the return of more than 100 Chinese vessels operating illegally in and around the waters of Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef,” which also falls within the country’s EEZ.
This incident occurred about a year after more than 200 Chinese ships “invaded” the region, sparking tensions between the two countries.
On May 31, the Philippines protested what it said was “harassment” by the Chinese Coast Guard of a Taiwanese vessel with Filipino scientists conducting research in the South China Sea.
China seized nearby Mischief Reef in 1995. The Hague ruled the reef to be part of the Philippine continental shelf. And China seized the Scarborough Shoal, about 220 km east of the island of Luzon in the Philippines, and captured islands and reefs in Vietnam.
Vietnam has accused China of violating its sovereignty by conducting military exercises on June 19 near Woody Island, a Chinese-occupied rock in the Paracel archipelago. China sank Vietnamese fishing boats near the Paracels.
Chinese coastguards and “paramilitary fishing fleets” frequently stop at Woody Island before heading elsewhere in the South China Sea “to assert China’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea”, it said. reported Radio Free Asia, a sister organization of Voice of America. .
As Polygraph.info and others have reported, China has sent warships to escort illegal fishing expeditions. Chinese fishing fleets are known for their aggressive tactics, including ramming competitors and foreign patrol vessels, and have routinely engaged in illegal fishing as far south as South America.
In March, a senior US Navy commander said China had militarized at least three islands in the South China Sea, equipping them with “anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems, laser and jamming equipment. and fighter jets,” the Associated Press reported. .
The commander told AP that China’s actions over the past 20 years were “the biggest military build-up since World War II by the PRC (People’s Republic of China).”
While ignoring other countries’ legitimate territorial claims in the South China Sea, China says it has every right to develop the islands as it wishes.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative says China has established 20 outposts in the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands. The initiative is a project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, DC think tank.