China tells US to ‘stop flexing muscles’ in South China Sea, Latest World News - The New Paper

China tells US to ‘stop flexing muscles’ in South China Sea

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BANGKOK: China yesterday called on the United States military to stop flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and to avoid adding "new uncertainties" over Taiwan, during high-level talks between the world's two largest economies.

The remarks by Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, recounted by a Chinese spokesman, came just two weeks after a top White House official denounced Chinese "intimidation" in the busy waterway.

It also came a day after Mr Esper publicly accused Beijing of "increasingly resorting to coercion and intimidation to advance its strategic objectives" in the region.

During closed-door talks on the sidelines of a gathering of defence ministers in Bangkok, Mr Wei urged Mr Esper to "stop flexing muscles in the South China Sea and to not provoke and escalate tensions in the South China Sea", the spokesman, Mr Wu Qian, said.

China claims almost all the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, where it has established military outposts on artificial islands. But Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the sea.

The US accuses China of militarising the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbours who might want to exploit trillion of dollars worth of oil and gas reserves.

The US Navy regularly vexes China by conducting what it calls "freedom of navigation" operations by ships close to islands China occupies in the South China Sea.

Asked specifically what Mr Wei sought for the US to do differently, and if that included halting such freedom of navigation operations, Mr Wu said: "We (call on) the US side to stop intervening in the South China Sea and stop military provocation in the South China Sea."

Mr Wei and Mr Esper also discussed Taiwan, claimed by China as a wayward province and is the Communist Party's most sensitive territorial issue.

Mr Wei underscored China's position that it would "not tolerate any Taiwan independence incident", Mr Wu said, adding that it opposed any official or military contact with Taiwan. - REUTERS