China, US should steer clear of conflict as ‘neither can afford it’ – Chinese FM

China, US should steer clear of conflict as ‘neither can afford it’ – Chinese FM
Both China and the US are destined to be on the losing end in a potential conflict between the countries, as the cost would be too high for each of them to bear, the Chinese foreign minister said, while downplaying Beijing’s ambitions as a global leader.

“For any sober-minded politician, they clearly recognize that there cannot be conflict between China and the United States because both will lose — and both sides cannot afford that,” Wang Yi said after being asked about the possibility of war between two counties during a press conference in Canberra, Australia, on Tuesday.

According to Wang, China does not want to lead or replace anyone, and it must focus on its own development.

“We must remain clear-headed about the various comments demanding China play a ‘leadership role’,” Wang said.

The already-strained relations between the two nations took a hit after US President Donald Trump received a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in November to congratulate him on winning the US election. Beijing doesn’t recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty and maintains it’s part of China. More unease in China was triggered by Trump’s tariff proposal on Chinese imports.

Wang, however, said that US-China relationship had defied “all sorts of difficulties” over decades.

“What we assess is the official policy statement, made by the [US] administration after inauguration, not campaign rhetoric, not some remarks made years ago,” Wang said.

READ MORE: Stick to ‘one China’ policy, Beijing tells US after historic call between Trump & Taiwan’s president

Yet he also called upon global powers to reject the protectionism measures from the White House since Trump took office on January 20.

“It is important to firmly commit to an open world economy,” Wang said. “It is important to steer economic globalization towards greater inclusiveness, broader shared benefit in a more sustainable way.”

‘Brush up on’ South China Sea history – Beijing to Washington

The United States needs to “brush up” on the history about the South China Sea, Wang Yi said later on Tuesday, adding that after World War II, Japan was due to return all taken territories from China.

Wang said he had a “suggestion” for his US colleagues: “Brush up on the history of World War II,” he said, as cited by Reuters.

READ MORE: No ‘word bombs,’ pressure from outside can stop drills in S. China Sea – Chinese state media

He referred to the 1943 Cairo Declaration and 1945 Potsdam Declaration, which state that Tokyo had to return to Beijing all Chinese territory taken by Japan.

“In 1946, the then-Chinese government, with help from the United States, openly and in accordance with the law took back the Nansha Islands and reefs that Japan had occupied, and resumed exercising sovereignty,” Wang said. Nansha is the Chinese name for the Spratly Islands.

“Afterwards, certain countries around China used illegal methods to occupy some of the Nansha Islands and reefs, and it’s this that created the so-called South China Sea dispute.”

The South China Sea, a waterway of strategic importance, has been at the center of tensions between multiple nations contesting waterway and offshore resources. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all have claims in the region.

In July 2016, The Hague Tribunal said that there was no evidence that China historically had exclusive control over the waters or resources. Beijing, however, called that verdict “ill-founded,” warning its armed forces would defend its maritime interests.

In recent months China and the US have been involved in a “war of words” over the disputed territories.

Washington has intensified constant warship maneuvering near artificial islands that Beijing has built, justifying its activity according to the principle of Freedom of Navigation (FON). Tensions between China and the US escalated in December after a Chinese naval vessel spotted and seized a piece of “unidentified equipment” in the South China Sea, which turned out to be an underwater US drone. Then-US President-elect Trump accused Beijing of “stealing” the device.

Beijing then accused the US of repeatedly dispatching vessels and aircraft to carry out “close-in reconnaissance and military survey” within Chinese waters. Later it promised to return the device, criticizing Washington for “hyping up” the incident.

In January, Rex Tillerson, since appointed US secretary of state, said that Beijing should be denied access to islands it has built in the South China Sea.