In the wake of the Hague-based Court of Arbitration’s decision to deny Beijing’s nine-dash-line territorial claims, tensions in the South China Sea have increased. The United States claims it will continue aggressive military action in the waterway, a move sternly opposed by China.
During a tour of military installations in the coastal Zhejiang Province, China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan appeared to raise the bar, calling for "recognition of the seriousness of the national security situation, especially the threat from the sea."
He also called for preparations for a "people’s war at sea," according to state-run Xinhua news agency.
Chang’s statements reiterate similar claims made by Chinese officials recently. Earlier this week, one military official speaking on condition of anonymity said that, "We should go in and give them a bloody nose."
"The People’s Liberation Army is ready," he added.
A separate source with ties to Chinese leadership described the PLA as combative.
"The United States will do what it has to do. We will do what we have to do," he said. "The entire military side has been hardened. It was a huge loss of face."
A highly-disputed region through which roughly $5 trillion in international trade passes annually, most of the South China Sea is claimed by China, though there are overlapping claims by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
While the Court of Arbitration ruled against China’s claims, Beijing does not recognize the decision as legitimate.
The US and its Pacific allies have expressed opposition to China’s construction of a series of artificial islands, claiming Beijing is attempting to establish an air defense zone. China maintains it has every right to build within its own territory and that the islands will be used primarily for civilian purposes.