Call for ‘guardrails’ nothing but blether

Soon after warning away the USS Benfold guided missile destroyer that trespassed in Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea on Wednesday, the Chinese People's Liberation Army Southern Theater Command released photos of the operation.

One photo and its caption show the Chinese and United States vessels are in visual range, with a PLA sailor on board the guided missile frigate Xianning gathering data on the USS destroyer. Another photo is a close-up shot of the USS Benfold, which placed its weapons and fire-control radar system in default positions.

This was the first time the PLA has released photos from any such encounters. It reflects the PLA's growing confidence and readiness to respond to the "freedom of navigation" provocations of the US.

Under that pretext, the US military has been repeatedly sending warships to waters off the Xisha and Nansha islands in the South China Sea. It should be noted that three days after its trespassing in waters off the Xisha Islands the USS Benfold conducted a similar "freedom of navigation" operation in waters off China's Nansha Islands on Saturday.

The frequent US military operations have prompted the PLA to develop a routine practice of organizing its naval and air forces to track, monitor and warn away US military vessels and aircraft.

The US moves are clear proof that the US is the major destabilizing factor in the South China Sea.

Washington has repeatedly claimed that its military maneuvers in the South China Sea are aimed at challenging China's "excessive maritime claims" which it alleges pose a serious threat to the freedom of the sea including freedom of navigation and overflight, free trade and unimpeded commerce.

But such allegations do not hold water as there has never been a single case indicating China's safeguarding of its legitimate maritime territorial rights and interests has hindered freedom of navigation or normal commerce conducted through the waters in any way.

On the contrary, it is the US that is taking increasing moves to militarize the South China Sea, using the maritime disputes as an excuse to turn the waters into a venue for its efforts to contain China. By repeatedly sending its warships and military aircraft to stage provocations on China's doorstep, the US intends to showcase its global supremacy and encourage others to participate in its "Indo-Pacific strategy".

The US' provocative freedom of navigation operations show its high-ranking officials have no sincerity at all when they repeatedly call for the establishing of "guardrails" for China-US relations to ensure that the competition between the two countries does not veer into a conflict.

But instead of intimidating China, the reckless US moves will only consolidate China's determination to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty by quickening its own defense forces' modernization and steadily improving the PLA's operational capabilities and combat preparedness.