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March 9, 2009

China in dispute with Malaysia, Philippines over Nansha Island

China, which has a long standing dispute with Japan over an island, has now entered in a tiff with Malaysia and the Philippines over another island in the South China Sea.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Friday that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and adjacent waters.

It was reacting to a statement from Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi on Thursday claiming Malaysia's sovereignty over these areas. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Beijing was prepared to resolve the dispute through consultation.

The two houses of Philippines parliament adopted resolutions in late January and early February laying claim on the Nansha islands. China immediately reacted saying that the decisions taken in Manila were amounted to a violation of China's sovereignty. China regards all these islands as inalienable parts of Chinese territory.

"We hope the countries involved will abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and refrain from taking actions that might complicate or expand disputes," Qin said on Friday. There was need for concerted efforts to safeguard the peace and stability of the South China Sea, he said.

The Nansha Islands is a group of more than 650 reefs, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea. Nansha has an uninhabited oceanic atoll called the Danwan Reef.

Beijing has been involved in a serious battle of words over Tokyo over the Diaoyu Islands. Japanese foreign minister Hirofumi Nakasone recently caused a lot of heart burning in China by saying that the Diaoyu islands are part of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and United States. He meant that the existence of the treaty made it impossible for Tokyo to accept China's claims on the island.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman reacted saying that any treaty between Japan and the US should not hurt the interest of China.

"Any words and deeds that bring the Diaoyu Islands into the scope of the Japan-US Mutual Cooperation and Security Treaty are absolutely unacceptable for the Chinese people," an official spokesman said.

The Japanese foreign minister has also expressed concern over China's military build-up, which is evident in the recent hike in defense expenditure. The island dispute also affects the talks between Beijing and Tokyo on joint exploration of oil and gas in East China Sea, sources said.
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