HONG KONG, July 13 (UPI) — China says even if its claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea isn’t recognized, it still reserves the right to establish an air defense zone.
The statement from Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin came after the International Court for Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines in the dispute over islands in the South China Sea, CNN reported Wednesday.
Liu said China’s sovereignty claims are unaffected by the ruling. He said China would consider an air defense zone that requires foreign aircraft to notify China before flying in designated areas, depending on perceived threats to China’s claims.
“If our security is threatened, we of course have the right to set it up,” Liu said.
Military experts also said Beijing could step up its build-up of arms and troops if the United States takes “provocative” measures to challenge its presence, the South China Morning Post reported Wednesday.
Li Jie, a Chinese expert on the matter, said Beijing is mulling its options in the wake of the court rulings.
“More advanced weapons will show up in the South China Sea after the tribunal’s rulings,” Li said. “The Chinese leadership will decide which military options should be taken based on how provocatively the [United States] challenges China’s national sovereignty in the aftermath of the rulings over the South China Sea.”
Tensions could escalate as China refuses to recognize the court decision.
About $5 trillion of trade occurs in the South China Sea annually.