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
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
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.