The US and China have clashed after Barack Obama stated in Washington that he is concerned about China is using its “sheer size and muscle” to push around smaller nations in the South China Sea.
According to a report by Reuters the comments made by Obama led to a swift rebuke from Beijing which accused the United States instead of being the bully.
China’s rapid reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed other claimants, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, and drawn growing criticism from U.S. government officials and the military.
Although the position of China within the islands will not alter the superiority of the US on a military level in the region it is the potential of how China will use the islands that is causing concern.
It is reported that workers are being brought in to the islands to build a range of new ports and fuel storage depots while it is being muted that there could even be two airports being constructed which would potentially allow Beijing to project power deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.
President Obama said: “Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.”
He added: “We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” he said.
In response the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the United States had no right to accuse anyone of pushing anyone else around, according to Reuters.
“I think everyone can see very clearly who it is in the world who is using the greatest size and muscle”
“The United States needed to do more to show that it really wanted to play a constructive, responsible and positive role in the South China Sea, and should not ignore the efforts China and Southeast Asian nations have made to try and address the dispute.”
There are various claims on the South China Sea with several overlapping claims from China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Every year $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through the zone making it hugely valuable.