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article imageU.S. expected to raise South China Sea issues in talks with China

By Nathan Salant     Feb 23, 2016 in World
Beijing - U.S. diplomats are expected to voice concerns about a suspected military expansion in the South China Sea at high-level talks this week in Washington, D.C.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry beginning Tuesday and continuing through Thursday, according to the Reuters news service.
But complaints from both countries about the other have been increasing in recent days, raising the possibility and stakes of a diplomatic standoff.
The U.S. accused China last week of exacerbating tensions in the South China Sea by apparently deploying surface-to-air missiles in the Spratly Islands, and China responded Monday by accusing Washington of making "a fuss."
China's foreign ministry said Beijing's military buildup in the region was the same as fortifications protecting the U.S. state of Hawaii, the news service said.
"The U.S. is not involved in the South China Sea dispute, and this is not and should not become a problem between China and the United States," ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said Monday.
"China's deploying necessary, limited defensive facilities on its own territory is not substantively different from the United States defending Hawaii," she said.
China claims most of the South China Sea, even though most nearby countries have overlapping claims to the islands, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Taiwan.
More than $5 billion in trade passes through the sea every year, Reuters said.
China also maintains that its operations in the region are mostly for civilian purposes, and blames the United States for raising tensions by sending ships and planes on frequent and close-in surveillance missions.
"It's this that is the biggest cause of the militarization of the South China Sea," Hua said.
"We hope that the United States does not confuse right and wrong on this issue or practice double standards," she said.
The U.S. reportedly urged Australia and other south Asia countries to increase their "freedom of navigation" naval operations within 12 miles of the contested islands, Reuters said.
Hua also said Yang would discuss issues involving North Korea, but repeated China's opposition to reported U.S. plans to deploy an advanced missile defense on the Korean peninsula following a recent Pyongyang missile launch.
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