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China will not concede an inch of land, Xi tells Mattis

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Beijing, Jun 28 : China will not concede “any inch of territory” passed down from ancestors to others, President Xi Jinping has told US Defence Secretary James Mattis, amidst rising bilateral tensions over Beijing flexing its military muscles in the disputed South China Sea.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have been marred recently by rising tensions — not only by an impending trade war but also by both militaries viewing each other with increasing suspicion.

The US has been sending periodic air and naval expeditions to assert its right of the freedom of the navigation in the South China Sea area, most of which is claimed by China.

“The Pacific Ocean is vast enough to accommodate China and the US, as well as other countries,” Xi told Mattis during a meeting here yesterday.

Despite disagreements in the Pacific over the South China Sea, “it has long been known that the real experts on military affairs do not want to employ military means to solve issues,” Xi, also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China, said.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims over the vital transit route for world trade.

Xi said China and the US should promote the development of bilateral ties based on the principle of mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

“When we see common interests between China and the US, we do not shy away from differences. Our stance is steadfast and clear-cut when it comes to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said, adding that “any inch of territory passed down from ancestors cannot be lost, while we want nothing from others.”

Xi’s comments to Mattis was significant as the US Defence Secretary is a strong advocate of proactive US policy in the South China Sea to contain China’s efforts to consolidate its hold by installing military bases on the reclaimed islands.

As an important part of bilateral relations, the US and China military relations have maintained a sound development momentum in the recent years, Xi was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Mattis is the first Pentagon chief to visit China since 2014, and also held meetings with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Wei Fenghe and other top generals.

Asserting that Sino-US relation is one of the most important bilateral ties in the world, the Chinese President said, “The history and reality since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties in nearly 40 years have proved that the sound development of China-US ties can benefit people of both the countries and the world, and is also conducive to world and regional peace, stability and prosperity.”

China and the US share common interests in extensive areas and common ground far outweighs differences, he said.

Mattis’ meeting with Xi also took place amid the spiralling tariff spat between US and China over President Donald Trump’s demand to rapidly reduce the USD 375 billion trade deficit between the two countries.

China has also stepped up its military drills in Taiwan straits to pressure Taiwan, which it claims is part of the mainland China.

“There are some issues concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity which have become increasingly tense because of the US moves,” such as the SCS issues and the Taiwan question, Chinese experts said referring to Xi-Mattis meeting.

“So, through the meeting, China is sending a warning to the US by reaffirming its bottom line,” Diao Daming, an American studies expert and associate professor at the Renmin University of China, told the state-run Global Times.

“Mattis has heard the most authoritative voice from China on these issues and questions, and this might indicate that China’s legitimate activities in regions like the SCS and the Taiwan Straits won’t be affected by military actions from the US,” Xu Guangyu, a retired PLA major general and senior adviser to the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association told the daily.

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