US presses China to halt militarization of South China Sea

President Xi meets Henry Kissinger - Xinhua |

President Xi meets Henry Kissinger - Xinhua |

"We have continued concerns about China's activities and militarization in the South China Sea", Pompeo said following the talks.

Speaking earlier, the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said Xi and Trump reached an important consensus on the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties in a telephone call last week.Their meeting at the G20 summit would be of "great significance" in resolving bilateral problems, Wang said. The talks were due to be held in Beijing last month but were postponed after Washington announced new arms sales to Taiwan, and USA and Chinese vessels came close to colliding in the South China Sea.

Beijing has constructed a series of military outposts throughout the waterway, which includes vital sea lanes through which about $3 trillion in global trade passes each year.

"And we made clear that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever global law allows", Mattis said.

The talks came several weeks ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump's scheduled meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Argentina.

China and the USA have been embroiled in a trade war for several months, placing tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of goods on both sides.

When pressed by VOA during the briefing, Chinese Politburo member Yang Jiechi said those issues are "China's internal affairs" and that "foreign countries have no right to interfere".

However, Yang and Chinese defense minister Wei Fenghe spoke of the need to improve cooperation, including between the USA and Chinese militaries, to ease the risk of conflict as the two powers jockey for pre-eminence in the Asia-Pacific.

Kissinger said he is pleased to meet Xi in China again at a critical moment when Sino-U.S. relations have entered a new stage.

Mr Wei added to this, by warning that a confrontation between the two powers would "will spell disaster to all".

Top on that list is the South China Sea, where warships from the two countries recently had a near-collision, and Taiwan, where the U.S. has been signaling a policy shift with more frequent arms sales and the sailing of ships near the island.

"Our (China-US) trade and economic relations are mutually beneficial by nature and have delivered tangible gains to both the countries and its people". China and the USA should better understand each other and enhance communication to expand mutual benefits while managing disagreements. "Rather, we want to make sure China acts responsibly and fairly".

The two countries must agree to keep conflicts between them under control or else risk "destroying hopes for the new world order", the former secretary of state warned.

It may be recalled that President Trump had slapped $250 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese goods, accusing Beijing of nefarious trading practices, prompting retaliatory measures.

Although the rescheduling of the dialogue signaled an effort by the two sides to contain the slide in the relationship, it did not address the core dispute on trade.

On human rights, Pompeo voiced concern over China's treatment of religious minorities, including the mass detention of minority Uighur Muslims.

"The fact that China started use of meteorological observation stations on the illegally built structures in the Spratlys has seriously violated Vietnam's sovereignty over the islands", she said.

The Pentagon had previously declined to comment on a May report quoting unnamed sources with direct knowledge of USA intelligence reports as saying that the anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems had been deployed to Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in April or early May.

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