Beijing Olympics: Joe Biden questions China over South China Sea

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption China and the US have had a chilly relationship for decades

Former US vice-president Joe Biden has raised the prospect of a boycott of the Beijing Olympics over China’s rule of the disputed South China Sea.

Mr Biden said he would be “exasperated” if Beijing attempted to exclude pro-democracy groups from the ceremony in Beijing.

He said the US could not be “complacent” about Beijing’s attempt to “seize control of the South China Sea”.

Speaking in Tokyo, he said he would judge Beijing on its actions.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang rejected Mr Biden’s remarks.

“Such baseless remarks by a former US official are not helpful in our efforts to maintain global stability and peace,” he told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Mr Biden and Mr Lu spoke on the sidelines of a meeting of Japan’s former prime ministers, which was hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In Beijing’s first ever foreign policy dialogue with Japan, Xi Jinping said on Wednesday that both countries should uphold the international order and promote “peaceful resolution of the problems that have surfaced on the seas and the skies”.

‘Auld lang syne’

Relations between China and the US have recently become markedly frosty.

Donald Trump accused China of behaving unfairly in its row with Washington over trade and military technology. China reciprocated by warning that the US needed to rethink its attitude towards Beijing.

Mr Biden, who ran for the US Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2008, told reporters that the US needed to adopt a new way of seeing China, where the relationship was not solely about economic growth, but also about what he called “identity politics”.

In his remarks at the meeting, Mr Biden, now a senator for Delaware, said the US should have an independent voice, on the world stage.

“We have to get this right to build back our credibility and leadership,” he said.

“If we remain passive – if we allow it to get worse – we will find ourselves falling behind China economically and diplomatically, losing the trust of our allies and losing what has always been an important national security asset.”

In talks with Mr Abe, Mr Biden said the US had no intention of remaining an island state, and that it was unacceptable for China to militarise its claims in the South China Sea, according to a report in the Kyodo news agency.

Addressing Japanese concerns about US military withdrawal from the Western Pacific, Mr Xi repeated a vow that no foreign country would be allowed to dictate China’s foreign policy.

“To say to your enemy, ‘You are wrong, and we are right’, would be like us saying ‘We are right, and you are wrong’,” he said, according to reports.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Mr Xi said China has no intention of abandoning its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea

The first ever US-Japan foreign policy dialogue is expected to discuss enhanced cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, including with the United States in the fight against terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

The two countries agreed last year that their defence secretaries will meet more frequently.

In March, the two countries inked an agreement to boost bilateral maritime patrols and were discussing how to tackle territorial and maritime disputes.

In April, an American destroyer collided with a Chinese Navy ship in the South China Sea, prompting the US to send a B-52 bomber around the disputed islands.

Since 2005, China has been trying to develop an island system that covers almost the whole South China Sea, in what it says is a peaceful development of new technologies to “protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Beijing has seen its claims backed by nine UN conventions on the law of the sea.

Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Indonesia also claim parts of the South China Sea.

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