22:38 GMT11 August 2020
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    US-Chinese Standoff in South China Sea (51)

    At the 10th East Asia Summit in Malaysia on Sunday, China's deputy foreign minister told dignitaries including US President Obama that the facilities being built on islands in the South China Sea have a civilian purpose, and warned other countries not to provoke China.

    China's construction work in the South China Sea is intended for civilian, not military purposes, China's deputy foreign minister reiterated on Sunday. He warned the US and other countries not to provoke China by "stirring up trouble" in the region.

    Last month a US Navy guided missile destroyer, the USS Lassen, sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of China's Subi Reef in the South China Sea, in what US defense officials called a "freedom of navigation patrol." The patrol drew an angry response from China, which summoned the US ambassador to Beijing over the incident, calling it "blatant provocation."

    Subi Reef is in the Spratly Islands archipelago, which China calls the Nansha Islands; it believes all the islands lie wholly within its territorial waters. Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam also control some of the islands. 

    Subi Reef used to only be visible at low tide, but China's land reclamation work on the island has enabled it to build facilities there which "provide a public service" for countries in the region, Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said on Sunday.

     China’s deputy foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin
    © Photo : United Nations
    China’s deputy foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin
    The construction work is intended to help ships, fishermen and disaster relief efforts in an area which is relatively far away from the Chinese mainland, said Liu. 

    "One should never link the military facilities with efforts to militarize the South China Sea. This is a false argument. It is a consistent Chinese position to firmly oppose the militarization of the South China Sea."

    Deputy Foreign Minister Liu made his comments at the 10th East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, which was also attended by President Obama, who said ahead of the summit that disputes in the South China Sea would be a major focus of the summit, and asked China to stop building work there. 

    Earlier this month, a US Navy official disclosed plans for two more patrols in the Spratly Islands before the end of the year, arguing that the US is asserting the rights of military and civilian vessels to operate there under international law.

    US-Chinese Standoff in South China Sea (51)


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    land reclamation, US Navy, Spratly Islands, South China Sea
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