China's foreign minister said his country planned to end construction on an island in the South China Sea, but that the decision had nothing to do with recent criticism or pressure from the United States. "We (already) had to stop the (building) process because the construction will be completed within days," Wang Yi told an Asia Society delegation in Beijing Tuesday. Any suggestion that American pressure had led to the halt, he said, "is totally not true."
Wang also criticized what he called the "megaphone diplomacy" of the U.S. on the South China Sea, an apparent reference to condemnations issued by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and other American officials and lawmakers in recent weeks. The U.S. and several Southeast Asian nations have been harshly critical of China for expanding several coral reefs through dredging in the South China Sea, and building a runway on one of them, actions that the Americans fear may be used for military operations. For his part, Foreign Minister Wang repeated Chinese claims that the building was "lawful, legitimate, and reasonable," and pronounced himself "baffled" by critics who have slammed China for the construction.
The foreign minister used a 90-minute session to address a series of recent flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship. Beyond the maritime tensions, Wang called the recent indictments of six Chinese nationals for computer hacking and economic espionage "extreme measures based on hearsay," an example of "irresponsible fingerpointing" by the U.S. in an area where, according to Wang, Americans have been culpable as well. He said that China is hit by more than 300 large-scale hacking attacks each day, and said that Chinese government websites are frequently targeted by the U.S.
The cyberespionage issue and questions of maritime sovereignty have proven major irritants in the U.S.-China relationship in recent weeks, threatening the relationship just three months before President Xi Jinping is to visit Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., in late September. Wang said that for all the negatives, the two governments were working on a series of "deliverables" in the U.S.-China relationship for the summit -- roughly 100 chances for "substantive progress," including on trade, climate change, and especially "military-to-military cooperation," which Wang called the "cornerstone" for the relationship.