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Wednesday, March 2, 2016, 20:57

China says Philippine ship towed over safety concerns

By Xinhua

BEIJING - China confirmed on Wednesday that it had sent ships to the Wufang Jiao, an atoll of the Nansha Islands, to tow a stranded Philippine ship to ensure navigation safety and protect the marine environment.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei made the remarks at a daily press conference in response to a Philippine media report that said China's Wufang Jiao did not allow Philippine fishermen to approach it.

According to Hong, a foreign fishing boat was stranded near Wufang Jiao late last year. After several failed towing attempts, the ship owner abandoned the ship and removed all major equipment from the ship.

To prevent the stranded ship from affecting navigation and damaging maritime environment, China's Ministry of Transportation has sent salvage ships to tow the ship and dispose of it appropriately, Hong added.

During the process, China persuaded fishing boats in the operation waters to leave to ensure navigation safety, Hong said, adding that the salvage ships had returned to China after the operation.

The spokesperson reaffirmed China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and its adjacent waters. China will implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) comprehensively and effectively with the members of ASEAN and jointly maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea, Hong added.

'DON'T COMPLICATE SEA ISSUE'

Also on Wednesday, Hong said China urged the United States not to hype up or deliberately confuse the South China Sea issue.

Hong made the remarks a at a daily news briefing when responding to reports that US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday said in a speech in San Francisco that China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea, and he warned China against "aggressive" actions in the region.

China's deployment of limited and necessary national defense facilities in its own territory is far from new, Hong said, adding that China's exercise of self-preservation and defense is a right granted by international law to sovereign states.

The United States has continued to increase its military presence in the South China Sea for a long time, Hong said, noting that the US side also carries out highly targeted military drills in the region and has sent military vessels and planes into China's territory without authorization to conduct close surveillance.

"What the United States has done has intensified tensions and is most likely to cause militarization in the South China Sea," Hong said.

He reiterated that China is firm in its determination and resolve to maintain its territorial sovereignty and maritime interests.

China and ASEAN countries have the confidence and ability to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, Hong said, urging the United States to respect the joint efforts by countries in the region.

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