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Beijing: Diplomacy key to resolving S China Sea issues
February 7, 2017, 8:43 am

China, which claims about 2 million square km of the maritime territory, has always maintained that “the situation in the South China Sea is stable [Xinhua]

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has said that diplomacy is the best and only means to resolving any regional disputes and welcomes any such initiative from other countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang was responding to remarks made by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during his trip to Japan that emphasized the role of diplomacy in handling South China Sea disagreements.

Although Mattis blamed Beijing for the recent tensions in the South China Sea, his latest statements appeared to walk back earlier threats of a confrontation with China over the maritime region.

“There is no need right now at this time for military maneuvers or something like that, that would solve something that’s best solved by the diplomats,” Mattis told reporters during his Tokyo visit.

“What we have to do is exhaust all efforts, diplomatic efforts, to try to resolve this properly, maintaining open lines of communication,” Mattis said.

Lu responded by saying that such diplomatic initiatives fall within “the common interests of China and all countries in the region”.

“We hope that countries outside of the region can respect the joint interests and wishes of countries in the region,” Lu added.

The calming of tensions comes after a week of terse exchange of words between Beijing and Washington.

On February 4, the Chinese Foreign Ministry rebuked Mattis for stating that a treaty between Japan and the US also covered a group of islands, known as Diaoyu, which lie in the South China Sea. In Japan, the islands are called Senkaku. Washington says it recognizes Japan’s “administration” of the dispute islands.

He said that defense of the islands fell within Article 5 of the US-Japan defense pact.

US media had speculated that the Pentagon would carry out naval exercises in the South China Sea, but Japan has already said it would not take part in such a move.

“The Diaoyu Island and its adjacent islets have been an inherent part of Chinese territory since ancient times, which is a unchangeable historical fact,” Lu said at the time.

Beijing claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea, a maritime region believed to hold a wealth of untapped oil and gas reserves and through which roughly $4.5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year. In addition to Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have contesting claims on these waters.

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The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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