China: US comments on S
China Sea are an 'attack'

The Chinese foreign ministry on Sunday accused U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of an "attack" on China for her recent comments that competing claims over South China Sea island chains should be resolved without coercion or threat.

Beijing has concerns about the Spratly and Paracel islands, but the situation in the disputed areas remained peaceful, Chinese Foreign Minister YangJiechi was cited as saying in a statement posted on the ministry website.

"Is the expression of reasonable concern coercion? This is not tenable," Yang was quoted as saying in response to Clinton's comments last week at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Vietnam. The statement called Clnton's remarks an "attack."

Clinton had stressed that the U.S. doesn't support any country's claim over the islands, but China maintains it has sovereignty in the South China Sea and insists on dealing with the dispute directly with other claimants away from the international arena.

China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines claim all or part of the island chains. Along with rich fishing grounds, the area is believed to have large oil and natural gas reserves. It also straddles busy sea lanes that are a crucial conduit for oil and other resources fueling China's fast-expanding economy.

Yang said there were no problems with maritime traffic or security in the disputed waters and that bilateral negotiations were key to solving the issue.

"What's the consequence of internationalizing this issue and making it multilateral? It only makes things even worse and more difficult to resolve," he said.

Territorial conflicts in the South China Sea have occasionally broken out into armed confrontation, although China and the other claimants have sought to resolve differences peacefully under a 2002 code of conduct.

Chinese forces seized the western Paracels from Vietnam in 1974 and sank three Vietnamese naval vessels in a 1988 sea battle. The sides have yet to demarcate their sea border and many Vietnamese remain suspicious of China.

Beijing also opposes U.S. military operations and data gathering in the South China Sea, leading to a series of confrontations involving vessels from the two countries.

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