China Urges US to Stop Flexing Muscles 11/18 06:57
BANGKOK (AP) -- China on Monday urged the U.S. military to "stop flexing
muscles" in the disputed South China Sea, a point of persistent friction in a
relationship both sides said was generally improving.
A spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Defense, Col. Wu Qian, told
reporters in Bangkok that the South China Sea was among numerous issues
discussed earlier in the day when U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper held his
first face-to-face meeting with the Chinese defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe.
They met for more than half an hour on the margins of a broader Asia defense
"We agreed to keep talking and engaging frequently," Esper told reporters
afterward in a brief exchange. "We continue to make progress on any number of
The South China Sea for years has been a major point of contention between
Beijing and Washington. China claims the South China Sea as its sovereign
territory, but those claims overlap with those of other Asian governments. The
United States has no territorial stake but has periodically sailed Navy ships
through areas of the sea that China considers off-limits.
Wu, the defense ministry spokesman, told a news conference that Esper and
Wei had a "very positive and constructive" meeting and "agreed in many areas."
But he was clear that Beijing is irritated at the U.S. Navy's presence in the
South China Sea. Wu said Wei reaffirmed China's commitment to safeguarding
"territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests" in the South China
"The Chinese side also urges the U.S. side to stop flexing muscles in the
South China Sea and do not provoke and escalate tensions in the South China
Sea," he said through a Chinese interpreter. Asked by a reporter to be more
specific about Chinese objections, Wu said the U.S. should "stop intervening in
the South China Sea and stop military provocations."
Esper spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a later statement that the U.S.
defense secretary "pointedly reiterated that the United States will fly, sail
and operate wherever international law allows --- and we will encourage and
protect the rights of other sovereign nations to do the same."
Asked about China's view on the civil unrest in Hong Kong, Wu said, "Ending
violence and restoring order is the most pressing task we have in Hong Kong."