US 'would be to blame' for any clash in South China Sea
US naval operations in the South China Sea could spark conflict and the United States would be to blame if a clash occurred, a Chinese military researcher said yesterday.
The warning came as Chinese and US trade teams ended talks in Beijing that have raised hopes an all-out trade war could be avoided, but fears remain that strategic tension between the two countries are growing.
"Both countries' warships definitely have to come into close proximity and it's easy for there to be a misunderstanding or an error of judgment, even a collision," Zhang Junshe, a researcher at China's PLA Naval Military Studies Research Institute, said. "If there is a collision, the root cause is the United States."
Earlier this week, a US guided-missile destroyer sailed near disputed islands in what China called a "provocation", just as the trade talks began.
Mr Zhang said whenever US warships entered waters that China claimed, China had no option but to send warships to deal with them.
Since Donald Trump became US president, there had been 14 incidents of US Navy vessels entering seas China claimed, to carry out what the US called freedom of navigation operations, Mr Zhang said.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea and denounces US naval operations there.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan have competing claims in the region.
He Lei, former vice president of China's Academy of Military Sciences, said "foreign forces" that attempted to prevent the unification of China and Taiwan could compel Beijing to use force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.
"Foreign forces that pose as world police to interfere in China's affairs, to obstruct and damage China's unification, are the main culprits that could force the mainland to use force to resolve the Taiwan issue," he said.
Mr Trump has signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, which reaffirms the US commitment to Taiwan.
Chinese president Xi Jinping last week said nobody could change the fact that Taiwan was part of China.