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    West London Reef is pictured in the South China Sea in 2015, in this handout photo provided by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe. New satellite images show Vietnam has carried out significant land reclamation at two sites in the disputed South China Sea, but the scale and pace of the work is dwarfed by that of China, a U.S. research institute said on May 7, 2015

    Vietnam Rejects US Demand to Stop 'Land Reclamation' in South China Sea

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    Vietnam rejected the US demand to stop land reclamation activities in the South China Sea at high-level talks on Monday.

    Vietnam rejected US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's demand to stop land reclamation in the South China Sea, saying the activities were not aimed at expansion.

    Carter called for an "an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants" at a security summit in Singapore on Saturday. The United States previously accused China of "manufacturing sovereignty" by reclaiming and consolidating islands in the disputed region.

    "We have some activities to enhance and consolidate the islands that are under our sovereignty. We do not expand the islands, we just consolidate to prevent erosion because of waves," Vietnam's Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said after talks on Monday.

    Vietnam also has soldiers stationed on 21 islands and reefs in the disputed region, according to Thanh. A US military source told Reuters that Carter did not receive an explanation over what Vietnam considers maintenance versus new expansion.

    "On the submerged islands, we only built small houses, which can accommodate a few people and we are not expanding. The scope and characteristic of our work is purely civilian," Thanh added.

    Carter also pledged $18 million for Vietnam to buy coast guard vessels. The US banned selling arms to Vietnam not related to maritime security or surveillance over what the US considers Vietnam's "human rights" issues.

    The two countries also discussed cooperation to clean up residue from Agent Orange, a poisonous defoliating agent the US dispersed over Vietnam during the two countries' 1955-1975 war.

    The US use of Agent Orange, since banned by the Geneva Convention, led millions of Vietnamese citizens to suffer from health problems including disabilities and birth defects. Residue from the agent continues to contaminate Vietnam's agricultural lands and pose a threat to nearby residents and the country's food supply.

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    Tags:
    disputed islands, artificial island, US Department of Defense (DoD), Phung Quang Thanh, Ashton Carter, United States, South China Sea, Vietnam
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