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US, China at odds over South China Sea dispute

US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged China to reduce tensions in the South China Sea. Kerry’s two-day trip to Beijing has been overshadowed by growing security concerns over the country’s maritime objectives.

Speaking at a joint press conference Saturday with China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Beijing to halt its increasingly assertive actions in the South China Sea.

Kerry is on a two-day tour of China that has been overshadowed by deepening security concerns about China's maritime objectives in the South China Sea.

Beijing's land reclamation projects that China is conducting in the disputed territory have shaken the region.

China asserts about 90 percent of the 3.5 million square kilometer (1.35 million square mile) South China Sea belongs to Beijing. While the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also claim ownership.

During the press conference, Wang responded to Kerry's claim saying his country was interested in dialogue, but would not back down on defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“I would like to reaffirm that China's determination to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity is as hard as a rock,” Wang said.

“It is the people's demand of the government and our legitimate right,” he said.

“With regard to construction on the Nansha islands and reefs, this is fully within the scope of China's sovereignty,” Wang said using the Chinese name for the seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea.

Wang also expressed concern at the US' plans to send military aircraft and ships to the South China Sea.

Kerry did not respond to Wang's claims on whether the US intended to send military ships and aircraft to the region.

However, Washington did maintain that it does not take a position on the sovereignty claims but insists there needs to be negotiations between the parties.

Following their private meeting on Saturday, Kerry said Beijing and Washington were committed to finalizing an agreement aimed at blocking paths for Iran to obtain fissile material.

jlw/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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