21:19 GMT04 December 2020
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    The United States will not tolerate limits on airspace and sea routes in and around the highly contested Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement on Thursday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — China alongside the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam claim various parts of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The disputed territories potentially hold large reserves of oil and gas.

    China lays territorial claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, and is building artificial islands in the region, some with defense facilities.

    “The United States will not accept restrictions on freedom of navigation and overflight, or other lawful uses of the sea,” Kerry said. “These are intrinsic rights that we all share. It doesn’t matter whether a vessel is a large warship or a tiny fishing boat. The principle is clear: The rights of all nations must be respected.”

    Kerry also urged the countries involved in the dispute to halt their land reclamation efforts and construction of new facilities on the islands to ease regional tension.

    “I have urged all claimants to make a joint commitment to halt further land reclamation and construction of new facilities or militarization on disputed features,” Kerry said.

    “Such steps would lower tensions and create diplomatic space for a meaningful Code of Conduct to emerge by the time our leaders meet here in November.”

    Kerry added the construction of facilities for military activities in or around the islands “only raises tensions and the destabilizing risk of militarization by other claimant states.”

    Beijing’s pursuit of the South China Sea and reclamation projects in the Spratly Islands has led to deteriorating relations with the United States and its close regional ally Japan.

    Related:

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    Malaysia Hopeful for South China Sea Code of Conduct Ahead of ASEAN Meeting
    Crying Wolf in South China Sea: US Beating Drums Over Chinese 'Threat'
    Tags:
    Spratly Islands, US, South China Sea, China
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