Source: India Today

China on Wednesday warned India and the United States against interfering in the South China Sea dispute. Both countries had during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US, expressed concern about rising maritime tensions in the region.

The joint statement issued following talks between Modi and US President Barack Obama said both leaders “expressed concern about rising tensions over maritime territorial disputes. The two leaders also stressed the need to ensure “freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea”.

This was the first specific reference in an India-US joint statement to the South China Sea. India had, in the past, not specifically mentioned the dispute considering China’s sensitivities.

Both leaders had also called on “all parties to avoid the use, or threat of use, of force in advancing their claims”, amid complaints from Vietnam and the Philippines that China was asserting its claims.

However, Beijing on Wednesday warned both countries to not interfere in the dispute. “Our position is that the dispute in the South China Sea should be resolved by countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation, and any third party should not be involved in the dispute,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the waters and islands of much of the South China Sea – claims contested by close to ten countries. China has accused the U.S. of fanning tensions by seeking closer ties with involved parties, such as the Philippines.

While India has maintained that it will not involve itself in the dispute, it has also stressed the importance of ensuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, with vital sea-lanes, through which most of India’s trade with East Asia passes, lying in the disputed waters.