China defends sovereignty claims in disputed waters | News | DW | 02.06.2013
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China defends sovereignty claims in disputed waters

A top Chinese military official has defended Beijing's controversial claims in the East and South China Seas. Meanwhile, the foreign ministry has condemned US comments ahead of the Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary.

The deputy head of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) told an audience at the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore on Sunday that Chinese naval maneuvers in disputed territorial waters were meant to defend Beijing's sovereignty.

"Our attitude on East China Sea and South China Sea is that they are in our Chinese sovereignty," Lieutenant-General Qi Jianguo said through an interpreter. "We are very clear about that."

"So these Chinese warships and the patrolling activities are totally legitimate and uncontroversial," he added.

The People's Republic is locked in a dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, known as the Diayou in Chinese, in the East China Sea. And in the potentially energy rich South China Sea, Beijing is facing off with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Lieutenant-General Qi sought to reassure China's regional neighbors, who are becoming increasingly uneasy as Beijing begins flexing its military power in the disputed seas.

"China has never taken foreign expansion and military conquering as state policy," Qi said.

Tiananmen Square row

As the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre approaches, Beijing has condemned US State Department comments that referred to the event as a "tragic loss of innocent lives."

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hong Lei said in an English-language press release that the US should "immediately rectify its wrongdoings and stop interfering in China's internal affairs so as not to sabotage China-US relations."

Hundreds of students peacefully demonstrating for reform were killed when China's communist government deployed the military to put down the unrest on June 3-4, 1989. The event is a taboo topic in China, which labeled the protests as "counter-revolutionary."

After her comments on the Tiananmen Square massacre, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Friday called for Beijing to respect its citizens' human rights.

"We renew our call for China to protect universal human rights of all its citizens; release those who have been wrongfully detained, prosecuted, incarcerated, forcibly disappeared, or placed under house arrest; and end the ongoing harassment of human rights activists and their families," she said.

The row over Tiananmen Square comes days before US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet each other in California.

slk/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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