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Tuesday, November 17, 2015, 11:34

No Sea focus at East Asia Summit: China

By Agencies

No Sea focus at East Asia Summit: China
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin speaks to Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy, Dan Kritenbrink in Beijing in this file photograph d ated Dec 3, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR)
BEIJING - China does not want the South China Sea to be the focus of this week's East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur but it will be hard to avoid and some countries will raise it, the country's Vice-Foreign Minister said on Tuesday.

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin was talking to reporters in Beijing about the summit which will be attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

He said the focus of the East Asia Summit should be development.  "Hyping the South China Sea issue is not conducive to cooperation," Liu said.

China has exercised "great restraint" in the disputed South China Sea by not taking back islands occupied by other countries even though it could have, Liu said.

China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

While not on the formal agenda of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on Wednesday and Thursday in Manila, the South China Sea is expected to be discussed on the sidelines.

China was the real victim in the South China Sea as it had had "dozens" of its islands and reefs in the Spratlys illegally occupied by three of the other claimants, Liu said.

"The Chinese government has the right and the ability to recover the islands and reefs illegally occupied by neighbouring countries," Liu said.

"But we haven't done this. We have maintained great restraint with the aim to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea."

Liu said China's island building was not about militarisation.

He also iterated that while China's building work is for defence, its main focus is civilian.

China is building facilities like lighthouses, while protecting the environment, Liu added.

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