BEIJING, April 12, Kyodo
China lodged protests with the Group of Seven industrialized countries on Tuesday, a day after their foreign ministers released a statement that touched on high tensions in the South China Sea, according to diplomatic sources.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry made the protests through their embassies in Beijing, the sources said.
The top diplomats from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, without mentioning China by name, said that they opposed to "any intimating, coercive or provocative unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions" in regional waters.
They also urged all countries "to refrain from such actions as land reclamations including large scale ones, building of outposts, as well as their use for military purposes and to act in accordance with international law" in their statement on Monday after wrapping an annual meeting in the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
According to the sources, the Chinese ministry summoned a senior diplomat from one of the European countries, but in at least one case the protest was only expressed over the phone.
China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, a key international shipping route that is also believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits as well as fisheries resources.
Despite strong opposition from smaller Asian claimants, including the Philippines and Vietnam, and a number of other non-claimant countries, China has pressed forward with its rapid and massive island-building strategy to assert its sovereignty.
On Tuesday, the Chinese ministry publicly said it is strongly dissatisfied with the G-7 foreign ministers' statement, seen by Beijing itself as a veiled criticism of its behavior in the East China and South China seas.
In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang urged the G-7 countries to meet their commitment of not taking sides on territorial issues and stop making "irresponsible remarks."
"Given that the world's economic recovery is weak, the G-7 should have focused on global economic governance and cooperation, rather than hyping up maritime issues and provoking regional conflicts," Lu said.
China has repeatedly and especially criticized Japan, this year's G-7 chair, and the United States for speaking about its ongoing reclamation activities in the South China Sea, calling them "outsiders" in territorial disputes with its smaller Asian neighbors.
In the East China Sea, China also claims a tiny group of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan and frequently sends ships into Japanese territorial waters around them.
Lu also said China remains committed to resolving territorial rows through negotiations with countries directly involved based on international law and historical facts. But he said China will not participate in any arbitration "illegally" imposed on it.
The Philippines is challenging China's claim to almost the entire South China Sea at a United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague, which could hand down a decision on the case as early as next month.