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Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (Photo: U.S. Department of State)

China needs to build defensive structures on South China Sea islands to display sovereignty claims

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Friday, March 09, 2018, 00:00 (GMT + 9)

Foreign Minister Wang Yi has appeared to blame the US and its allies for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, which is claimed in all or in part by China and five other governments.

He said China had been working with other claimants and its Southeast Asian neighbours on completing a code of conduct to prevent frictions in the waterway that has rich fishing grounds, vital sea routes and a potential wealth of undersea natural resources.

"Some outside forces are not happy with the prevailing calm, and try to stir up trouble and muddle the waters. Their frequent show of force with fully armed aircraft and naval vessels is the most destabilizing factor in the region," Wang said.

The US does not take a stance on the sovereignty claims but insists on freedom of navigation in the area and has sailed close to Chinese-held islands to challenge Beijing's sovereignty claim.

In other remarks, he defended China's 8.1 per cent increase in its defense budget announced Monday, which brings it to a record CNY 1.1 trillion (USD 173 billion), the world's second largest.

While China is preparing to launch its second aircraft carrier, integrate stealth fighters into its air force and field an array of advanced missiles able to attack air and sea targets at vast distances, he said the military's overall cost to the nation is relatively light.

China this year is spending 1.25 per cent of its GDP and 5.2 per cent of the total government budget on the armed forces, considerably lower than the US and Russia, he said.

"So really, an increase of 8.1 per cent is still pretty low," he said.

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