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U.S. State Department Accuses China of Using Pandemic To Expand Control in South China Sea

April 8, 2020 (EIRNS)—State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus issued a statement on April 6 accusing China of using the coronavirus pandemic to expand its own claims in the South China Sea. In the statement, apparently prompted by reports of the April 2 sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel, there were no injuries, near the Paracel Islands, Ortagus stated that China has built two new research stations on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef, and landed special military aircraft on Fiery Cross Reef.

“The P.R.C. has also continued to deploy maritime militia around the Spratly Islands,” she said. “China’s Nine-Dashed Line was deemed an unlawful maritime claim by an arbitral tribunal convened under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention in July 2016, a position shared by the U.S. government.”

“We call on the P.R.C. to remain focused on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic, and to stop exploiting the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea,” Ortagus concluded.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded on April 7 that the science stations are for monitoring and field studies on vegetation, geological environment and marine ecology of the Nansha Islands and that China does not, and never has recognized the arbitral tribunal on the South China Sea.

“At present, the world is in a crucial period of jointly combatting the pandemic,” Zhao said.

“While fighting the pandemic at home, China is doing its utmost to support and help other countries in need, which has won universal praise from the international community. Under such circumstances, the U.S. not only sent warships and planes to make waves in the South China Sea, which violated China’s sovereignty and security, but also sowed discord, and misinterpreted the UNCLOS [UN Convention for the Law of the Sea] in an attempt to negate China’s legitimate claims and stir up trouble. China urges the U.S. to stop linking the pandemic with maritime issues and focus on domestic and international anti-epidemic response instead of doing otherwise.”

The islands that Ortagus referred to as Paracels, are called Xishas in China, and Spratlys are called Nanshas.

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