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Tensions In South China Sea Loom Over Kerry Visit


China and several of its neighbors are locked in a contest for ownership of violence in the South China Sea. Reports this week suggested that the U.S. is weighing the option of military intervention in the region. The issue looms over Secretary of State John Kerry's visit to China this weekend. He's there to prepare for a presidential summit and other U.S.-China exchanges later this year. NPR's Anthony Kuhn has the story from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: Neither Secretary Kerry nor Foreign Minister Wang Yi addressed reports that the U.S. is considering sending war ships and planes to the disputed islands in the South China Sea. Kerry restated Washington's concern that China is reclaiming land on the islands in order to stake its claim to the area.


SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: I urged China to take actions that will join with everybody in helping to reduce tensions and increase the prospect of a diplomatic solution.

KUHN: Kerry said that instead of building military outposts on the islands, China should focus on reaching an agreement about the area with its Southeast Asian neighbors. Foreign Minister Wang said China is committed to settling the disputes by peaceful means, but he said it has a legitimate right to build whatever it wants on its own territory.


FOREIGN MINISTER WANG YI: (Foreign language spoken).

KUHN: "China's determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity is rock solid and unquestionable," he said. Wang added that even as China's strength and influence grow, it has no intention of kicking the U.S. out of Asia.


WANG YI: (Foreign language spoken).

KUHN: "The U.S. is an important country in the Asia-Pacific region," he said, "and we welcome the U.S. to play a positive and constructive role in Asian affairs." Both sides insist that their areas of cooperation on everything from climate change to nuclear nonproliferation outweigh the differences. Kerry will meet with President Xi Jinping before heading to South Korea tomorrow. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn
Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.