Says China Won't Stir Trouble In South China Sea
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[May 31, 2014]
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese
President Xi Jinping has vowed not to stir up trouble in the South China
Sea but said China would react "in the necessary way" to provocations by
other countries, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The comments come at a time of deep tension between China and
Vietnam over Beijing's decision in early May to move an oil rig into
disputed waters between the Paracel islands and the Vietnamese
Days after China deployed the rig, the Philippines accused Beijing
of reclaiming land on a disputed reef in the Spratlys to build what
would be its first airstrip in the South China Sea.
"We will never stir up trouble, but will react in the necessary way
to the provocations of countries involved," Xinhua quoted Xi late on
Friday as saying in a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak of
Malaysia, which is also embroiled in a long-running maritime dispute
Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the potentially oil- and
gas-rich South China Sea.
China has become increasingly willing and able to assert its claims
over disputed waters, causing concern among the other parties to the
disputes, analysts say.
The decision to deploy the oil rig enraged Vietnam and sparked
anti-China rioting. Scores of Vietnamese and Chinese ships continue
to square off around the rig and a Vietnamese boat sank this week
after a collision that both sides blamed on the other.
Xi told Najib the situation in the South China Sea was "stable in
general, but signs deserving our attention have also emerged".
China and Malaysia should "work together to strengthen dialogue and
communication, advance maritime cooperation and joint development to
maintain peace and stability on the South China Sea", Xinhua quoted
him as saying.
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Southeast Asian nations with maritime claims have been slow to band
together against China, but last week Vietnamese Prime Minister
Nguyen Tan Dung and Philippine President Benigno Aquino made a rare
joint denunciation of China.
To try to keep pressure on Beijing, diplomats said Vietnam might
host a meeting with Philippine and Malaysian officials at the end of
the month to discuss how to respond to China.
A senior Malaysian diplomatic source told Reuters two weeks ago that
China's assertiveness had given momentum to the three-way talks and
"brought us together", but he played down the discussions as little
more than "chit chat" at this stage.
(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Matt Driskill)
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