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China Opposes Debate on South China Sea

In this Feb. 25, 2014 file photo taken by surveillance planes and released May 15 by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, 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. The Philippines wants an international tribunal to issue a decision as quickly as it can on a Manila complaint that questions the legality of China's massive territorial claims in the South China Sea because the disputes continue to escalate. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said late Tuesday, June 17 that the Philippines would ask its lawyers to petition the Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague, the Netherlands, to issue an earlier ruling after China said it would not get involved in the case, which should shorten the arbitration proceedings. (AP Photo/Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, File)
China Opposes Debate on South China Sea Activities at ASEAN Meeting
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China says a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is no place to talk about Chinese actions in the South China Sea.

China says it will oppose attempts to make its island-building activities the main subject at the ASEAN leaders’ meeting in Malaysia.

The planned five-day-long summit opens Wednesday in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. Some non-ASEAN member countries -- including China, Japan and the United States -- will be represented at the talks.

On Tuesday, China’s vice foreign minister told reporters that he believes territorial disputes should not be discussed at the summit.

But Liu Zhenmin said he believes someone will raise the issue of China’s activities in the South China Sea, and that China will react.

He said his country has, in his words, shown “great restraint” in the disputed waters. He said China has not tried to retake control of islands and reefs that it believes are, in his words, “illegally occupied by neighboring countries.”

The United States, Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations have expressed concern about China’s island-building in the South China Sea. They say China is seeking to control territory without any discussion with other countries, including at meetings like the ASEAN summit.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam are among the ASEAN members who claim parts of the South China Sea.

U.S. President Barack Obama will attend the meeting. In a statement, the Obama administration said, in his meetings with other leaders, the president “will continue to urge all claimants in the South China Sea to halt further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and militarization of features they occupy, in order to reduce tensions and create diplomatic space for lasting, lawful and peaceful solutions to emerge.”

Earlier this month, China blocked a joint statement from ASEAN defense ministers because of disagreement about how to describe the territorial dispute.

Denny Roy is a senior fellow at the East West Center in Hawaii.

“They (China) would generally attempt to block it at every similar kind of meeting -- whether it’s of defense officials, foreign ministers or heads of state. So I would expect the same kind of dynamic to be taking place, mostly behind closed doors, at this upcoming meeting.”

Recently, two U.S. Air Force bombers flew near Chinese-built islands in the disputed waters. China reacted angrily to the flights. It said the United States is, in its words, “taking sides in the South China Sea issue.”

The bombers flew over the islands shortly after a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer sailed near the Spratly Islands. China said the mission was illegal and “extremely irresponsible.”

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reported this story from Bangkok. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

reef – n. a long line of rocks or coral or a high area of sand near the surface of the water in the ocean, often near the coast or islands

facility – n. something that is built for a reason

feature – n. an interesting or important part, quality or ability

emerge – v. to become known or apparent

dynamic – n. the way that two or more people behave with each other because of a given situation

behind closed doors – idiomatic expression in secret; away from observers, reporters or intruders -- usually in a closed room

take sides – idiomatic expression to support one side in a dispute

mission – n. a military or naval operation