US, China Clash Over Disputed S. China Sea

US, China Clash Over Disputed S. China SeaUS, China Clash Over Disputed S. China Sea

The United States and China clashed over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea on Saturday, as the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi asserted its sovereignty to reclaim reefs after a private meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry, saying its determination to protect its interests is "as hard as a rock."

At a joint press conference with Kerry after the meeting, Wang showed no sign of backing down, despite Kerry urging China to take action to reduce tension in the South China Sea. Reuters said in a report.

"With regard to construction on the Nansha islands and reefs, this is fully within the scope of China's sovereignty," Wang told reporters, using the Chinese name for the Spratly islands.

"I would like to reaffirm that China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity is as hard as a rock," he said. "It is the people's demand of the government and our legitimate right."

Meanwhile, Kerry said the US is “concerned about the pace and scope of China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea,” urging China to speed up talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on binding guidelines on how maritime activity in disputed areas should be handled.

He said he believed he and Wang agreed the region needed “smart diplomacy” in order to conclude a code of conduct between the ASEAN and China, “and not outposts and military strips” - an apparent reference to airstrips the US believes China is building on reclaimed land.

China has expressed its concern about a possible US plan to send military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation in the disputed area.

Kerry is on a two-day visit to China which is likely to be dominated by deepening concern about Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea.

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million sq. km sea. The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also claim large parts of it.

The country’s reclamation effort around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed other claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

 (P)GCC Reassured

The Persian Gulf Arab nations were reassured by a pledge from US President Barack Obama on Friday that Washington would help them face conventional military aggression but also get them to work more in their own defense against any unconventional menace, such as “destabilizing” Iranian actions in the region.

Obama said the US military would help states of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council – (P)GCC – to defend against any conventional armed threat, such as Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. He stressed that when it came to non-traditional threats, Washington would work with (P)GCC states to improve their own special forces, intelligence, and capability to stop weapons smuggling.

The US president had gathered top leaders from the six (P)GCC countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE -- for Thursday’s secluded talks in the bucolic Camp David retreat in Maryland.

Obama also said Syria’s civil war would “probably not” end before he left office, describing the situation as heartbreaking but adding that Washington could never on its own have brought that conflict to an end.

“You have a civil war in a country that arises out of a long standing grievance: It was not something triggered by the US, it was not something that could have been stopped by the US,” Obama said of Syria’s conflict.