Beijing on Monday said the current situation in the South China Sea is "generally stable" and told the United States to stop its “irresponsible behavior” and to “respect the facts” after it accused China of bullying in the disputed waters.
In a daily press conference, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang responded to a Saturday statement by US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, which said the US was "concerned by reports of China’s interference with oil and gas activities” in the Sea, “including Vietnam’s long-standing exploration and production activities” and the Asian giant's "repeated provocative actions."
"China should cease its bullying behavior and refrain from engaging in this type of provocative and destabilizing activity," Ortagus added.
Geng urged the US to not make such comments as they would "mess up the situation and undermine regional peace and stability."
The country is “effectively safeguarding the peace and stability” of the Sea, he said, adding that "China is maintaining dialog and consultation with the relevant countries in the South China Sea to manage the relevant disputes."
Ortagus in her statement also cited US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, where he had said that "by blocking development in the SCS through coercive means, China prevents ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members from accessing more than $2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves."
Geng said that "China and the ASEAN countries are effectively implementing the DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea)," however "for a long time the US and other external forces have been making random remarks on the SCS issues... and stirring up troubles with double intentions.”
According to Geng, statements by Pompeo and US National Security Adviser John Bolton are "baseless" “slander.”
"Countries and people in the region will not believe their words. We urge the US to stop such irresponsible behaviors, respect the facts and the efforts of the countries and work for peace and stability in the South China Sea," Geng said.
The exchanges come amid rising tension between Beijing and several other countries contesting the disputed waters.
In July last year, the US pointed to China as one of the threats in the Indo-Pacific region due to its growing military presence in the Sea.
The Philippines, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam claim sovereignty over different parts of the South China Sea, through which 30 percent of global trade circulates and which hosts 12 percent of global fishing area, as well as possible oil and gas reserves.