Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Japan was the latest nation to intervene today with an official statement of condemnation following Beijing’s "testing" of an airstrip built in one of the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
In the wake of Vietnam and the Philippines, Tokyo expressed "serious concern" about "the action taken by China", which is "a unilateral change of the status quo" in the region and an attempt to make the controversial reclamation work a "fait accompli". The Philippine government also announced today that it intends to follow the direction taken by Vietnam and file an official protest.
Beijing has recently completed the construction of a runway in an artificial atoll of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, an area at the center of an ongoing bitter territorial dispute between the countries of the region. In recent days, the Chinese government carried out a test landing of its aircraft in the area.
Vietnam was the first government to condemn the action, pointing out that it violates Hanoi’s national sovereignty and asked China to stop such actions. In response, Beijing rejected Hanoi’s protests and looks set to do the same with the statements from Manila and Tokyo.
On 2 January Hua Chunying, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, spoke of a "civilian aircraft" landing on the island ("Yongshu Jiao" according to Beijing) to check if the new runway built on "Chinese territory" meets the civilian aviation security standards.
Tensions have grown in the past two years, with China building atolls in the disputed Spratly islands which, according to the governments in the region, Beijing wants to use for military purposes.
Recent developments in the South China Sea are concerning various chancelleries of the continent, including the Japanese government that has already opened a dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea on the control of the Senkaku / Diaoyu. The Land of the Rising Sun says it “cannot accept" an escalation of tension in the region and intends to "cooperate with other nations" to ensure "freedom of the seas".
Meanwhile, in a statement the US Department of Defense, joining the nations of Asia-Pacific expresses its "concern" about the Chinese test, which is intended to exacerbate tensions in the region.
The Chinese government claims most of the sea (almost 85 per cent), including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. The Philippines – which is seeking a non-binding international ruling at the UN court – together with Vietnam, is increasingly worried about Beijing's imperialism in the South China and East China seas.
For the United States, which backs the claims of Southeast Asia nations, Beijing's so-called 'cow tongue' line – which covers 80% of the 3.5 km2 - is both "illegal" and "irrational".