Tokyo: In a bid to preserve its maritime interests, China now considers the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea as part of its "core interests" that concerns its sovereignty and territorial integrity, Japanese media reported on Sunday.
China has officially conveyed its new state policy to the US that it considers the South China Sea part of its "core interests”, Kyodo news agency quoted sources close to the matter as saying.
Previously, China had only regarded Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions, where separatist movements continue, as core interests vital to its territorial integrity, rejecting any compromise in issues concerning them.
By adding the South China Sea to its core interests, China has made clear its determination to secure maritime interests in strategic waters that connect Northeast Asia and the Indian Ocean and are a source of territorial disputes between China and other countries in the region.
With China becoming more active than before in the adjacent East China Sea, especially around the Senkaku Islands -- known in China as the Diaoyutai -- friction between Japan and China over maritime interests in the waters may intensify in the future.
China conveyed the new policy to visiting US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Jeffrey Bader, senior director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council, in early March, Kyodo quoted the sources as saying.
The two US officials met Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai in Beijing, and Dai is believed to have relayed the policy to the US side given that he provides overall management in foreign affairs, the Japanese news agency reported.
The South China Sea encompasses a portion of the Pacific Ocean stretching roughly from Singapore and the Strait of Malacca in the southwest, to the Strait of Taiwan in the northeast. The area includes more than 200 small islands, rocks and reefs, with the majority located in the Paracel and Spratly Island chains.