Shipping lanes in the South China Sea are among the safest and freest in the world, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday, emphasizing that freedom of navigation "does not give some countries the right to do whatever they want". [Special coverage]
"If someone wants to muddy the waters in the South China Sea and to destabilize Asia, China will not agree to it, and I think the majority of countries in the region will not allow that to happen," Wang said at a news conference on the sidelines of the two sessions of the top legislature and political advisory body.
Wang stressed that China's buildup of defense facilities on its own islands and reefs is fully within its international rights and that the country is not militarizing the seas.
China is neither the first country to deploy weapons on the Nansha Islands nor the one with the most weapons operating in the South China Sea or conducting the most military activities there, Wang said, adding that "the label of militarization is more suited to some other countries".
Zuo Xiying, an international studies specialist at the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said the United States is using fears over freedom of navigation as a ruse to level accusations against China. Zuo also said a certain country, by resorting to an arbitration process, is falsely claiming that China is violating international law.
"China should clarify the situation and tackle the issue,'' Zuo said, adding that Wang has drawn a firm line on the issue by stating Beijing's position.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is expected to rule in May on a case filed by the Philippines concerning the South China Sea. Beijing will not accept the arbitration, Wang said.
The dispute should be settled by the countries directly involved through consultation and negotiation, he added.
By not accepting the arbitration case, the Chinese government is acting entirely in accordance with the law, whereas the Philippines taking it to arbitration is "unlawful, unfaithful and unreasonable", the minister said.
He said the Philippines' move was a result of behind-the-scenes instigation and political manipulation.
"Some people are trying to make waves (in the South China Sea) and some others are flexing their muscles there. But history will prove who are just passers-by and who is the real host," he added.