China has asked the US and India to scrap their plan to conduct joint naval patrolling in the South China Sea (SCS), saying that the region should not be militarised by countries from “outside the area”.

Shenyang J-15
Chinese Shenyang J-15

The top Chinese authorities not only warned both India and the US against any naval patrolling, but also asked Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam not to encourage “other countries” to create trouble in the region.

Over the weekend, senior spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Hong Lei said that Beijing would never allow countries from outside the area to militarise the SCS and to pose a serious threat to the sovereignty and security of littoral countries. He claimed that even “freedom of navigation” has a limit, as it could not harm the regional peace and stability. Hong further advised the “relevant parties” to act with caution and to refrain from intervening in the SCS issue.

The Chinese official issued the statement soon after a top American defence personnel announced that New Delhi and Washington recently held informal talks on conducting joint naval patrols. Although no decisions had been made by the Indian and American officials in this regard, they planned to start the patrols within the year, he said.

Meanwhile, the Indian Defence Ministry described the report about the Indo-US discussion on joint naval patrolling as “highly speculative”, saying that the South Asian country had never conducted joint patrols with any country and there would be no change in its policy. India will join an international military effort only under the UN flag, stressed the ministry.

As far as the SCS issue is concerned, India said that China should resolve the dispute with Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam through peaceful negotiation. “We have always adhered to the principle of ‘Five Persistence’, which stands for persistence in maintaining the peace and stability of SCS; persistence in settling disputes with the party concerned according to the international laws via bilateral negotiation based on respect for historical facts; persistence in relying on rule-based system to control disputes; persistence in sustaining the freedom of flight and navigation in SCS,” it added.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]