BEIJING — China and the United States are budging not a bit over Beijing’s assertive development in disputed parts of the South China Sea, with Chinese officials politely but pointedly dismissing Washington’s push for U.S.-proposed ways to ease tensions.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up a visit to China on Sunday, both sides stressed the importance of dialogue to resolve competing claims in the waterway. But neither showed any sign of giving ground over Chinese land reclamation projects that have alarmed the United States and China’s smaller neighbors.
Kerry met Sunday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will be making an official visit to the United States this fall and sought to highlight U.S.-China cooperation.
“In my view, U.S.-China relations have remained stable overall,” Xi told Kerry at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, adding that he “look(ed) forward to continue to grow this relationship” on his upcoming visit.
Despite those words, which came shortly before Kerry left Beijing and arrived in Seoul, South Korea, friction over China’s construction in the South China Sea was evident and clouded the start of Kerry’s brief trip to Asia.
The U.S. and most members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations want a halt to the projects, which they suspect are aimed at building islands and other land features over which China can claim sovereignty.