NBC News welcomed an unlikely guest on Tuesday, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, who sat down to deliver a series of warnings to new US President Donald Trump.
“There might be a difference [of opinion] over the sovereignty and claims over these islands but it’s not for the United States [to decide],” Lu said during a rare half-hour interview in English with American media when asked about how Beijing would respond if challenged over its South China Sea claims by the Trump administration.
Lu rejected charges from Trump’s team that China had been building islands in international territory, saying that any dispute over sovereignty should be decided by China and its neighbors, effectively telling the US to butt out of the region.
On Monday, in his first press conference, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the US would defend international territories from being taken over China in the South China Sea. Spicer’s comments echoed those made by Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, during his confirmation hearing earlier this month.
“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed,” the 64-year-old former Exxon CEO said when asked if he supported a more aggressive posture toward China, adding that China’s island-building was “akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea.”
Lu also repeated China’s stance that there would be absolutely no bargaining over the “one China” policy, despite what Trump may believe.
“We made our positions very clear. Two points: First, this ‘one China’ policy has been the basis for China-American relationship. Second, because this issue touches upon China’s core interests, by no means is this something that could be negotiated or [used] as a bargaining chip,” Lu said, reaffirming that Beijing was “100 percent” committed to the policy.
China is still seething diplomatically over Trump’s decision to break with more than 35 years of foreign policy protocol by speaking with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen over the phone in December. Since then, Trump has since gone on to question whether the US really needs to abide by the “one China” policy at all, seemingly trying to use it as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with Beijing.
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