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China to US: Respect our sea rights, sovereignty

MANILA, Philippines — The Chinese defense minister reportedly talked with his US counterpart early this week to relay Beijing’s appeal to Washington that it respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea, saying President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden have a shared commitment to improving bilateral relations.

The Chinese embassy said the video conversation between Chinese defense minister Admiral Dong Jun and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III took place on Tuesday. Based on the embassy statement, the meeting appeared to focus more on the Taiwan issue. There was no direct mention of the West Philippine Sea issue. It was not clear who initiated the video meeting.

“The Taiwan question is the very core of China’s interests and China’s core interests brook no compromise. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never let any ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities and external supports go unchecked,” Dong was quoted by the embassy as saying.

The Chinese defense chief also noted that the current situation in the South China Sea is generally stable, and that regional countries have the willingness, wisdom and capability to resolve conflicts.

“The US should clearly recognize China’s firm position, earnestly respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea and take practical actions to maintain regional peace and the stability of the relations between the two countries and the two militaries,” Dong said.

“The military domain plays a pivotal role in implementing the consensus reached by the heads of state, stabilizing the development of bilateral relations and preventing major crises,” Dong said.

“The two militaries should explore ways to get along with each other, taking peace, stability and trust as the basic principles of their exchanges and build the military-to-military relationship featuring no conflict, no confrontation, open and pragmatic cooperation and gradual accumulation of mutual trust based on equality and mutual respect, so as to truly serve as a stable cornerstone for the development of relations between the two countries,” he added.

Earlier, Beijing