Help and not cause problems, China tells US

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Chinese diplomat hopes US view developments in South China Sea objectively

BEIJING: China hopes the United States can "help and not cause problems" in the disputed South China Sea (SCS), a senior Chinese diplomat said yesterday ahead of next week's visit to Beijing by President Donald Trump.

The US has criticised China's construction of islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

US Navy ships have also carried out freedom of navigation patrols in the area, angering China.

Speaking to reporters about Mr Trump's trip, Chinese Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Zheng Zeguang said that China has indisputable sovereignty over islands and surrounding waters in the SCS.

The essence of the SCS problem is some regional countries' illegal occupation of some of China's islands and reefs, Mr Zheng said, adding China was willing to resolve issues peacefully through talks with countries directly involved.

"The SCS issue isn't an issue between China and the US," he said.

"We hope that, as an external party, the US can plant more flowers and fewer thorns, help and not cause problems."

Mr Zheng said that he hoped the US could objectively view the positive developments in the SCS and respect efforts by China and South-east Asian countries to safeguard peace and stability there.

There is no issue with freedom of navigation in the SCS and China opposed any parties using it as an "excuse" to harm China's sovereignty and security interests, he added.

The Trump administration has vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations.

China's claims in the area are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Speaking earlier in the day, another senior Chinese diplomat said that China and Vietnam have agreed to manage their dispute in the SCS through friendly talks, following an ugly spat over the summer between the two communist neighbours.

A scheduled meeting between their foreign ministers in August was cancelled, but Hanoi and Beijing have sought to get relations back on track, with a top Chinese leader telling his Vietnamese hosts in September that their two communist parties have a "shared destiny".

Speaking before Chinese President Xi Jinping goes to Vietnam next week for a state visit, Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Chen Xiaodong said that leaders of the two countries have had many discussions on maritime issues.

"Both sides will uphold the principle of friendly consultations and dialogue to jointly manage and control maritime disputes, and protect the bigger picture of developing Sino-Vietnam relations and stability in the SCS," Mr Chen said. - REUTERS

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