Stay out of sea tensions: China state media to US

The South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, is claimed by several nations.

Beijing: The United States should stay out of a surge in tension in the disputed South China Sea, a Chinese government mouthpiece said on Wednesday after Washington backed its ally the Philippines in the row.

"Looming over the South China Sea is the image of another big nation, the United States," said a commentary in the People`s Daily, the ruling Communist Party`s main propaganda outlet.

"We do not support raising bilateral disputes in multilateral settings and oppose the interference of external powers in this issue."

The South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, is claimed by several nations but the issue has heated up recently with several incidents involving China.

They include Chinese forces allegedly opening fire on Filipino fishermen, shadowing an oil exploration vessel employed by a Philippine firm and putting up structures in areas claimed by the Philippines.

Recent incidents involving China and Vietnam also have occurred.

The United States has risen to the defence of its ally Manila, pledging help to modernise its Navy, and calling on China to help lower the temperature in the region.

The tensions look set to overshadow five days of meetings in Bali culminating Saturday in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations` (ASEAN) regional security dialogue, which also brings in China, Japan and the United States.

On Tuesday, ASEAN foreign ministers released a statement after a meeting that expressed "serious concern over the recent incidents”, and calling on claimants to exercise "self-restraint".

Taiwan, China and ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea.

The United States has defence pacts with Taiwan and the Philippines and says it has a "national interest" in the free movement of shipping.

"We believe that China and neighbouring countries have the ability and wisdom to properly handle the South China Sea issue," the People`s Daily commentary said.

Beijing has consistently warned Washington against interfering in the issue and rejected a multilateral solution, apparently fearing a united front against China, whose military expansion drive has caused regional concern.

Bureau Report

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