China rejected on Monday a United States statement on the South China Sea and said Washington is acting extremely irresponsibly by breaking its long-held commitment to take no position on the sovereignty issue of the sea and by sowing discord among countries in the region.
"China is strongly dissatisfied with and firmly opposed to the wrongdoings of the U.S. side," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
In a statement on Monday marking the fifth anniversary of a so-called arbitration ruling relating to South China Sea disputes that China has rejected, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Chinese government to "abide by its obligations under international law (and) cease its provocative behavior" in the region.
Speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing, Zhao said people with insight can clearly see that the tribunal on the South China Sea was a political farce, with the U.S. being the culprit and manipulator attempting to smear and suppress China.
The U.S. statement disregards objective facts on the South China Sea issue, violates and distorts international law, deliberately stokes disputes on territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, and undermines regional peace and stability, he said.
The spokesman said that while China exercises the maximum restraint in safeguarding its sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea through friendly negotiations, the U.S. sends large-scale advanced vessels and flights there for military reconnaissance and drills, and illegally enters China's territorial air space and waters.
Since the beginning of this year, the U.S. has conducted nearly 2,000 reconnaissance missions over China's waters and airspace, as well as more than 20 large-scale maritime drills targeting China.
In the most recent incident, a U.S. guided missile destroyer, the USS Benfold, trespassed into the territorial waters off China's Xisha Islands in the South China Sea on Monday and was warned off by the Chinese military.
"The South China Sea is the common home of regional countries and should not become the hunting ground for the U.S. to seek geopolitical, private interests," Zhao said, urging countries outside the region, including the U.S., to respect the efforts made by regional countries in safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea.
China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have made important progress in consultations on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, he said.
The South China Sea is one of the busiest maritime routes in the world, and around 30 percent of global trade in goods passes through it.
Through the joint efforts of China and other countries in the region, the South China Sea has remained open and secure, and no vessel's navigation is ever obstructed, Zhao said.
"The U.S. accusation that navigation in the South China Sea is threatened is groundless," he said.