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China defends islands building in South China Sea

China on Sunday told other countries not to "deliberately stir up trouble" in the disputed South China Sea, while insisting it has no intention of militarizing the strategically vital area even though it has increased construction activities there.

Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin reiterated China's position that its construction of artificial islands in the sea was designed to "provide public service" to the region by helping ships and fishermen and disaster relief efforts. This also includes military facilities to protect the islands and reefs, he said on the sidelines of the annual Asean summit in Kuala Lumpur.

China finding itself in the firing line over its land reclamation projects that have turned tiny atolls into fully-fledged islands with potential military uses.

"The world is watching," to see if Beijing will behave like a "responsible global leader", Philippines President Benigno Aquino told leaders at the summit.

In response, China's Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, warned countries outside the region not to inflame tension. Li also called for direct negotiations to resolve the dispute.

The US and others have called on Beijing to halt the construction, saying they are destabilizing an increasingly militarized region. Washington angered China by sending a warship inside a 12-nautical-mile (22-kilometer) territorial limit around Subi Reef in the Nansha Islands.

Liu called the USS Larsen's voyage last month a "political provocation."

"Is this a trend of militarization that calls for our alert?" Liu asked. "We hope regional countries and those outside the region will make positive and onstructive contribution to our efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. Don't look for trouble."

Beijing has displayed irritation with Washington's expressions of support for the claims of China's neighbours, and once again refused to budge on the issue.

With US president Obama present, Premier Li told Sunday's closed-door summit that countries "from outside the region" should stop inflaming tensions over the maritime dispute.

Obama announced Sunday he would host the ASEAN leaders at a meeting in the United States next year.

"This region ... is critical to security, prosperity and human dignity around the world," he said, while also pledging continued trade, diplomatic, and security support for the region.


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