US urges China to reduce Aisan tensions

2015-05-16 22:20
(Image: Andrew Harnik, AP)

(Image: Andrew Harnik, AP)

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Beijing - Visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to reduce tensions in the South China Sea at a joint press conference of contrasting statements on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi responded that "the determination of the Chinese side to safeguard our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock and it is unshakeable" amid growing concerns that Beijing plans to impose air and sea restrictions once it completes reclamation and construction on seven disputed islands.

Kerry had urged Wang during his scheduled visit on Saturday to help "reduce tensions and increase the prospect of a diplomatic solution," he said.

"The US is concerned with the speed of China's land reclamation in the South China Sea," he said. "We agree that the region needs smart diplomacy and not military strength."

Kerry's statement follows a US official on Tuesday noting the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the China-made islands.

Reclamation projects

China's Foreign Ministry responded by saying Beijing was "extremely concerned" and demanded clarification.

Chinese military facilities under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys include a 3 000m runway and airborne early warning radars, the Pentagon said earlier this month.

China in late 2013 announced a new air defence zone that included islands and waters disputed with Japan and South Korea in the East China Sea.

The South China Sea island reclamation projects are intended to improve the living and working conditions of those stationed on the islands, according to Beijing.

But outside analysts believe China is attempting to change facts on the ground by improving its defence infrastructure in the South China Sea, the US Defence Department noted in an annual report to Congress on China's military earlier this month.

On Friday China's Foreign Ministry accused the Philippines of working together with the US to "exaggerate the China threat" over the disputed Spratlys.

The US and the Philippines in April held one of their largest joint military exercises in years. Also in the same month, two US warships conducted five days of joint naval drills with Vietnamese forces with an emphasis on unplanned encounters.

Philippine military chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang charged that China's reclamation activity had damaged the ecological balance, destroyed 120ha of coral reef systems and cost the Philippine economy $100m in losses every year.

Some $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year through the potentially resource-rich South China Sea.

China lays claim to more than 80% of the sea and its islands, putting it in conflict with overlapping claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Read more on:    us  |  china  |  security

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