A war between China and America war is “inevitable” unless the US government backs down over a dispute in the South China Sea, it was warned yesterday.
Chinese authorities have angered Barack Obama by pressing ahead with land reclamation in the vital shipping area.
It has speeded up construction of runways, harbour facilities and buildings on the disputed Spratly Islands.
Last week a US aircraft ignored repeated warnings from the Chinese military to fly a reconnaissance mission over the area.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has signalled a desire to defuse tensions but a new military ‘white paper’ has outlined China’s plans to step up “open seas protection” in the region.
It says force could be used beyond its borders at sea and in the air “to safeguard its maritime possessions”.
The plans were revealed in The Global Times - a newspaper regarded as the mouthpiece of the Chinese goverment.
It said: “If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea.”
The article added that Beijing does not want a conflict with the US - “but if it were to come, we have to accept it”.
China claims most of the South China Sea - which is disputed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
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More than £3 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through the region every year.
Experts say neither China or the US want to back down - and there are fears a minor incident in airspace near the islands could escalate rapidly.
“I think the concern has to be that China misjudges the situation,” said Asia expert Robert Dujarric.
“Neither party wants a war if it can be avoided, but there are red lines for both sides.”