11/18/2011, 00.00
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China warns US that “external forces” should not intervene in South China Sea disputes

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reacts to statements by US President Obama, who tomorrow will raise the issue of sovereignty over groups of islands disputed by China and other states. Washington will also try to allay Chinese concerns over its recent overtures to Myanmar.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – With the US in mind, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned "external forces" not to get involved in maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Earlier, speaking about China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at its summit in Indonesia, the Chinese leader showed moderation, saying that his country wanted to “expand practical maritime cooperation.”

China is involved in disputes with four ASEAN members—Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei—as well as Japan and Taiwan.

US President Barack Obama will raise the issue of sovereignty over disputed groups of islands at another summit that begins tomorrow, also in the Indonesian island of Bali, this according to American sources.

China is opposed to a multilateral approach to the question, preferring bilateral talks with other nations.

"The dispute on the South China Sea is a matter that has been going on for years,” Wen said. “It should be resolved by the relevant sovereign states through friendly consultation and discussion directly."

At the same time, Washington and Beijing are engaged on another diplomatic front, Myanmar.

Obama Administration officials stressed that Washington’s new engagement with Myanmar should not be seen as an attempt to encircle or contain China. Instead, they expect China to be supportive of the move.

After President Obama announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Burma, US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Washington would consult with China about its overture to the Southeast Asian nation.

One US official added that it is in China's interests to see Myanmar both stable and better integrated into the international community. "It's about Burma (Myanmar), not about China," the official explained.

For many analysts, Beijing is increasingly uneasy with what it sees as US efforts to try to exert influence over countries around China.
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