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Obama: Lower Tensions in South China Sea


A Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, Philippines.

A Chinese vessel, top center, is used to expand structures and land on the Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, Philippines.


U.S. President Barack Obama said “bold measures” are needed to ease growing tensions over the South China Sea.

Six governments with shores on the South China Sea say they control parts of it.

President Obama made the comments before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit in Manila.

He said, “we agree on the need for bold steps to lower tensions, including pledging to halt further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea.”

China is dredging the sea floor and forming “mini islands.” Two of the new islands have airstrips and harbors for military air and sea craft.

Neighboring countries are alarmed that China has not talked openly about its plans for the islands.

China said there is no need for outsiders to get involved in the dispute among the Asian countries.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam all have claims to the sea.

Obama said the U.S. will stay neutral in the dispute.

The Philippines signed an agreement last year that gives the U.S rights to place military equipment at strategic locations in the country.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the presence of the U.S. in the Philippines should help defuse tension in the region.

On Tuesday, President Obama pledged $250-million in military contributions for Asian countries worried about China’s activity in the sea.

The Philippines also entered an official maritime partnership with Vietnam.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Simone Orendain wrote this story for VOA News. Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

How would you manage the South China Sea? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

airstrip – n. an area of land that is used as a runway for airplanes to take off and land

alarm – v. to cause (someone) to feel a sense of danger : to worry or frighten (someone)

defuse – v. to make (something) less serious, difficult, or tense

contribution – n. something that is given to help a person, a cause, etc.

dredge – v. to remove mud from the bottom of (a lake, river, etc.) in order to deepen it or to search for something

pledge – n. a serious promise or agreement

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