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China-US security meet to discuss maritime disputes
June 4, 2016, 10:22 pm

Kerry, seen here with with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in 2013, is likely to press the issue of South China Sea access [Xinhua]

Kerry, seen here with with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in 2013, is likely to press the issue of South China Sea access [Xinhua]

The question of Chinese sovereignty in the South China Sea as well as ongoing maritime territorial disputes there will figure high on the agenda of the eighth session of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) to be held in Beijing June 5-7.

In recent weeks, Chinese officials have criticized remarks made by senior US officials, including President Barack Obama, about claims to the maritime region made by the Philippines and Vietnam.

In late May, Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesman Yang Yujun strongly criticized a Pentagon report which said that China has reclaimed more than 3,200 acres (1,300 hectares) of land on seven features it occupied in the disputed islands in the space of two years.

The report, which is released annually, accused China of developing and weaponizing the islands by building runways and intelligence surveillance capabilities.

On Saturday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he hoped to convince Asian nations, including China, to enter into a security network of military cooperation and exercises.

China welcomed the idea of an Asian security network but called on the US to back off from what it said were provocative maneuvers near the territorial waters of other countries.

The retort came as China called on the US to immediately terminate its surveillance of Chinese islands in the South China Sea. In May, two Chinese fighter jets nearly intercepted a US military reconnaissance aircraft over the disputed waters. Beijing called the aerial reconnaissance “provocative”

The South China Sea, which official Chinese data indicates is 3.55 million square kms, is one of the world’s most strategically important waterways and is exceedingly rich with minerals.

More than $5 trillion of world trade travels every year through the South China Sea.

China, which claims about two million square kms of the maritime territory, has always maintained that “the situation in the South China Sea is stable. China and the countries of the [ASEAN] have kept a good-neighborly relationship”.

But Vietnam and the Philippines dispute China’s claim over the maritime region.

China claims it has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha (or Spratly) Islands and its adjacent waters according to the “nine-dash line” that it has delineated at the South China Sea, waters which carry around half of the world’s trade and possibly contains rich reserves of oil and gas.

At a forum ahead of the S&ED, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang called on the US not to allow its policy in the region to be swayed by its allies’ influences.

“I think if they can do this, and if they can stop provocative acts targeted at China’s sovereignty and security interests, then the US can play a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and promote a lowering of the temperature on this issue,” Zheng told reporters.

Chinese political analysts believe that the South China Sea dispute will prove to be a crucial point during the S&ED because of Washington’s so-called Asia Pivot and because Beijing believes the US approach is beginning to negatively impact regional stability.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew will meet with Chinese co-chairs, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang on Sunday, and will also discuss North Korea’s security threats as well as global trade and climate change.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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