Beijing (AFP) July 25, 2010
China's foreign minister warned the United States on Sunday not to internationalise the issue of the South China Sea, where Beijing's territorial claims conflict with other nations.
"What outcome can there be if the issue is internationalised? This can only make matters worse and more difficult to solve," Yang Jiechi said in a statement posted on the foreign ministry website.
"International practice shows that the best way to resolve these types of disputes are direct bilateral negotiations between the countries involved."
His comments come two days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Vietnam, said resolving disputes over the South China Sea was "pivotal" to regional stability.
"The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea," she said at Asia's largest security dialogue.
China and several countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) group make competing territorial claims over the resource-rich area, which is also a major source of tension between Beijing and Washington.
The United States has called for unfettered access to the area that China claims as its own, and accused Beijing of adopting an increasingly aggressive stance on the high seas.
Yang, who said Sunday that Clinton's "seemingly fair" comments were actually an "attack" on China, pointed out that the South China Sea was currently a peaceful area.
He added ASEAN was not an appropriate forum to resolve the issue.
"China and some ASEAN nations have territorial and maritime rights disputes because we are neighbours. It's not because these countries are ASEAN members that you can say that this is a dispute between China and ASEAN," he said.
Military ties between China and the United States have long been tense, and Beijing broke off defence exchanges with Washington in January over US arms sales to Taiwan.
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