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China defiant on territory claims, demands respect

Saturday - 3/8/2014, 9:20am  ET

CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) -- China will never make concessions in territorial disputes with its neighbors, while good relations with the U.S. depend on Washington respecting Beijing's sovereignty claims, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Saturday.

Sounding a defiant note in his first national news conference since taking office a year ago, Wang touched on disputes with Japan, the Philippines and others that have sharpened tensions in the Asia Pacific.

China has used its coast guard to assert its claim to the entire South China Sea and its island groups and has regularly confronted Japanese patrol boats surrounding a string of uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

"We will never bully smaller counties, yet we will never accept unreasonable demands from smaller countries," Wang told reporters at a briefing on the sidelines of the weeklong session of the National People's Congress, China's ceremonial legislature.

"On issues of territory and sovereignty, China's position is firm and clear: We will not take anything that is not ours, but we will defend every inch of territory that belongs to us," Wang said.

Wang took a similar tough stance on Japan, although he conceded the current standoff that has sent relations to a new low was not in the interest of either party. He said that Japan, however, was solely responsible for the impasse, partly as a result of leading public figures there questioning apologies made over Tokyo's World War II aggression.

"On the two issues of principle -- history and territory -- there is no room for compromise. If some people in Japan insist on overturning the verdict on its past aggression" that will not be condoned by China or the world, Wang said.

While relations with the U.S. have generally been good by comparison, Wang indicated that Beijing still felt slighted by U.S. criticism of its human rights record and unresponsive to its arguments over territorial claims.

"The China-U.S. relationship is both very important and very complex," Wang said.

"I believe that when the two sides truly respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, social system and development model, core interests and major concerns, then the foundation will be a solid one," Wang said.


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