By Amrutha Gayathri
China's official news agency on Sunday warned US against "muddying the waters" in the disputed zones of the South China Sea. This was in response to Washington's statement that it would increase its military presence in the region.
Though the US has said that the strategic decision to significantly increase its naval presence in the Asia Pacific by 2020 is not targeted at Beijing, the US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's plan to focus on the South China Sea dispute at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore has reportedly been an issue of concern for the Chinese officials.
"It is advisable for some to refrain from muddying the waters and fishing therein and for some others to desist from dancing behind a Pied Piper whose magic tone, as tempting as it is, might lead its followers astray," said Xinhua in a commentary, referring to the standoff over territorial confrontations in the South China Sea.
The US has maintained that Washington would act to counterbalance China's growing influence in the South China Sea as part of its foreign policy known as "pivot to Asia," developed in the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Xinhua said the alleged threat to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is fabricated and that it is Beijing's "genuine wish" to turn the South China Sea "into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation."
In his first trip to the region since the Pentagon issued its new strategic guidance in January, Panetta will brief the Asian allies on the regional strategies and seek to allay fears that fiscal uncertainty could undermine Washington's commitment to the effort.
"What we're trying to do with the swing through Asia is to give a comprehensive account to partners and everyone in the region about what the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific will mean in practice," an anonymous official was quoted as saying by Reuters.
The Pentagon is under financial constraint to cut down on spending by $487 billion over the next decade, which has led to Washington's Asian allies raising doubts on whether the US will be able to deliver what it has promised.
The recent military drills in South China Sea, involving nearly thousands of the US and Philippine forces, escalated the maritime tensions between Manila and Beijing triggered on April 10.
A top military publication in China warned in April that the US may be risking an armed confrontation by undertaking a joint military exercise with the Philippines.
"Anyone with clear eyes saw long ago that behind these drills is reflected a mentality that will lead the South China Sea issue down a fork in the road towards military confrontation and resolution through armed force," the People's Liberation Army newspaper said, according to a Reuters report.
"Through this kind of meddling and intervention, the United States will only stir up the entire South China Sea situation towards increasing chaos, and this will inevitably have a massive impact on regional peace and stability."
China lays claim to almost the entire South China Sea, including what is recognized by the UN as the Exclusive Economic Zone of other neighbors, according to reports.
Courtesy: International Business Times