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US ‘using islands dispute to muddy waters’

By Li Xiaokun in Beijingand Tan Yingzi in Washington (China Daily)

08:06, August 06, 2012

Washington’s bid to take advantage will damage ties, analysts say

Three Chinese officials, in the space of 24 hours, slammed US criticism of Beijing’s decision to set up a military garrison in the South China Sea, a rare gesture analysts said showcases Beijing’s determined stance on the territorial issue.

The US, trying to take advantage of the worsening South China Sea situation, may damage ties between the world’s two largest economies, experts said.

Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng called in Robert Wang, the US embassy’s deputy chief of mission on Saturday, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.

US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Friday that China had raised tension in the region with the announcement last month that it had established a city and garrison in the South China Sea.

Zhang said that US State Department remarks “completely ignored the facts, deliberately confounded right and wrong, and sent a seriously wrong signal, which is not conducive to the efforts safeguarding the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific region”.

“We urge the US to correct its mistake and respect China’s sovereignty.”

Also on Saturday, Qin Gang, spokesman for the ministry, accused the US of “selective blindness” as “certain countries” escalated disputes by opening oil and gas blocks, threatening Chinese fishermen, and illegally appropriating territory.

Tensions in the South China Sea have increased in past few months with Philippine naval action near China’s Huangyan Island.

The Philippines also recently offered oil and gas exploration contracts in Chinese territory in the South China Sea and Vietnam has passed a law falsely claiming Chinese islands.

“And why has the United States chosen to speak out all of a sudden to stir up trouble at a time when countries concerned in the region are stepping up dialogue and communication to resolve disputes and calm the situation?” Qin asked.

On Sunday, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Fu Ying said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency that China is ready to enter into discussions with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea when conditions are ripe and that the issue should be addressed and solved only by parties directly concerned.

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