An incendiary editorial in a state-controlled Chinese newspaper hit back at Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who claimed during his senate confirmation hearing that China should not be allowed to access the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
The editorial was published on 13 January in the Global Times, a national English-language publication belonging to the People's Daily, the Chinese Communist Party official newspaper. It said that the only way to prevent access to the uninhabited islands in international waters that China has unilaterally claimed as its own would be to "wage a large-scale war".
"Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish," the editorial declared. The full text of the editorial can be read below.
In the senate hearing, Tillerson said: "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 former Exxon Mobil CEO did not provide any further details as to how the US would prevent China from staking a claim over the islands or how it would respond to the country's growing aggressiveness in the region, which is unnerving the US' traditional Asian allies, like South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.
Tillerson blamed the outgoing Obama administration for failing to address China's actions. "The failure of a response has allowed them just to keep pushing the envelope on this. The way we've got to deal with this is we've got to show backup in the region with our traditional allies in Southeast Asia," Reuters cited Tillerson as saying.
While President-elect Trump has expressed an interest in normalising relations with Russia, he has displayed a more aggressive stance towards China. At the press conference on 11 January, Trump asserted China "has taken total advantage of us economically, total advantage of us in the South China Sea by building their massive fortress, total".