China on Tuesday launched a broadside against the US after Washington’s top diplomat Antony Blinken accused Beijing of taking "aggressive actions” in the Asia-Pacific region.
“If the US really wants to promote peace in the Asia-Pacific region, it shouldn’t instigate conflicts among regional countries, nor frequently send warships and aircraft to the South China Sea to flex its military muscle,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesman of China’s Foreign Ministry, according to Chinese daily Global Times.
Wang said Blinken’s comments “blatantly contradict claims that the US is not seeking a new cold war.”
The response came as Blinken told a conference at the University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java that the US would work with allies and partners to “defend the rules-based order” and that countries “should have the right to choose their own path.”
"It’s not about a contest between a US-centric region or a China-centric region. The Indo-Pacific is its own region," he said. “That's why there is so much concern — from Northeast Asia to Southeast Asia and from the Mekong River to the Pacific Islands — about Beijing’s aggressive actions, claiming open seas as their own ... ."
"We’re determined to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s aggressive actions threaten the movement of more than $3 trillion worth of commerce every year."
He added: “It is also why we have an abiding interest in peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait."
China claims sovereignty over parts of the resource-rich sea, bringing it into dispute with the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The US secretary of state said he made the trip to strengthen "strategic partnerships" with other countries in the region: Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Blinken met Monday Indonesian President Joko Widodo as he made the first of three stops in Southeast Asia this week. He will also travel to Malaysia and Thailand.
According to the State Department, the two “emphasized the importance of the US-Indonesia Strategic Partnership and discussed ways to strengthen the bilateral relationship.”
Blinken congratulated Widodo on Indonesia’s G20 presidency and expressed support for Indonesia’s leadership in the Indo-Pacific “as the world’s third-largest democracy and a strong proponent of the rules-based international order.”
They also discussed bilateral and regional cooperation to address challenges to democracy and human rights, as well as the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The US-China relationship has deteriorated over a range of issues including Taiwan, which China claims as its "breakaway province," Hong Kong and Xinjiang.