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'China won't tolerate muscle flexing over South China Sea'

Posted on Nov 28, 09:40PM | IANS

China favours dialogue to settle territorial disputes relating to the South China Sea but will not stand by idly if "somebody flexes its muscles", said a top Chinese expert here Wednesday.

Li Junru, addressing Indian media on China's once-in-a-decade leadership change, said: "We are trying for negotiations and dialogue to settle the issue... We do not wish to resort to force and do not want to intimidate with our economic and military strength."

"However, this does not mean that if somebody flexes its muscles to us, we will stand by idly and do nothing," he said.

Li's statement comes days after Beijing upset its neighbours by claiming ownership of the entire South China Sea and Taiwan on a map printed in its newly revised passports.

The South China Sea has been found to have vast reserves of oil and gas, large fish stocks and is a key global trade route.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia lay claim to parts of the sea.

Li said China's claims on the South China Sea, which is a vital trading route, is historical. "One day we discovered large amounts of oil and natural gas and suddenly people (other countries) began to say 'It is ours'."

The Chinese expert said China had sent its vessels only "to patrol the sea". "We will not act recklessly... If somebody uses force, it does not mean we will stand and not do nothing," he added.

The issue of the South China Sea figured majorly at the East Asian Summit held on Nov 20 and most countries in the 18-member grouping agreed on the need to deal with it "peacefully and legally".

The East Asia Summit also saw discussion on a legally binding code of conduct to resolve disputes in the sea, which China is unwilling to commit to.