China denies intimidating Pacific nation

Lazy eyes listen


China has denied reports that its vessels intruded into Palau’s territorial waters, following the Pacific island nation’s request for increased US military patrols, claiming a threat from Beijing.

When asked about allegations that Chinese ships violated Palau’s exclusive economic zone on many times this year, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin reiterated that the country’s warships follow international law.

“The Chinese vessels were taking shelter from the wind in relevant waters, and they did not conduct any maritime exploration or survey activities,” Wang explained.

According to the official, Beijing has “asked Chinese vessels to exercise their right to freedom of navigation and carry out scientific research activities in strict accordance with the law.”

Earlier on Thursday, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. told reporters that an increased US military presence surrounding his country would be welcome, citing alleged Chinese encroachment.

He said the move was “about preparedness,” adding that Washington is “very aware” of the situation and is “continuously” working to improve Palau’s security.

“We think that strength leads to peace, and presence leads to deterrence… I understand that everyone is concerned about the increase [of regional tensions]… “If we don’t show any strength, we’ll be vulnerable,” Whipps Jr. warned, advocating for more US Coast Guard troops to be deployed.

In recent weeks, the United States has signed or renewed security treaties with many Pacific island nations, including Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, and Palau. Officials have pushed to increase US influence in the region following Beijing’s signing of a large military and development agreement with the Solomon Islands last year, which caused concern in Washington.

After being closed for decades, the United States reopened its embassy in the Solomon Islands early this year, citing China’s “growing influence” and concerns about a military buildup in the region.