Defiant Chinese Admiral’s Message: South China Sea ‘Belongs to China’

There was just one thing on everyone’s mind when Chinese, U.S., and Japanese admirals made a rare joint appearance at a London conference.

LONDON — In a rare appearance together, American and Chinese admirals sat alongside one another to present their views on maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region. The audience came to hear about one thing, the South China Sea, and China’s commander was clear: “It belongs to China.”

There was political theater and a few one-liners, as the panel remained cordial and the admirals were all smiles during handshakes before and after. But the tension was real and the messages direct.

“The South China Sea, as the name indicated, is a sea area. It belongs to China,” said Vice Adm. Yuan Yubai, who commands the North Sea Fleet for the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Yubai said China is working with the U.S. military on a code of conduct for aircraft encounters, which he hoped would help avoid conflict among the five nations with claims in the South China Sea.

The exchange came at London’s Defence & Security Equipment International, or DSEI, conference, which gathers naval leaders from around the world. Yubai sat with U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Jeff Harley, assistant deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, and Umio Otsuka, president of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Otsuka, in his remarks, shared the fable about a woman who tells her husband of 30 years she had a dream that she received a giant diamond ring for her birthday. She asks her husband what the dream means? So, for her birthday, he gave her a book about the meaning of dreams.

The Japanese admiral said, “As not a native English speaker, I hope you pick up what I truly mean from the context by reading between the lines.”

But the admiral’s accompanying PowerPoint slides were direct. Up popped a map of the South China Sea on two giant screens next to the stage. At the top, large text read “Reclamations in the South China Sea.” On the map, colored dots identifying islands China, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia all claim as their own.

Full article: Defiant Chinese Admiral’s Message: South China Sea ‘Belongs to China’ (Defense One)

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