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No ‘bullying’ in the South China Sea, US warns

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Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 10:37 GMT, Feb 10, 2016 |
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US President Barack Obama will deliver a tough message to China during a summit with Southeast Asian countries that disputes in the South China Sea must be resolved peacefully and not with a big nation “bullying” smaller neighbours.

Obama is to host the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in California on Monday and Tuesday.

Though China will not be represented, Obama’s aides made clear that Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea – where it has proceeded with island building that US officials suspect could be turned to military use – will be one of the focal points of the summit.

“The president will call on all claimants to halt land reclamation, construction of new facilities and to carry out no militarization of outposts in the South China Sea,” Dan Kritenbrink, Obama’s top Asia adviser, told reporters.

China lays claim to most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped each year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Rhodes said part of Obama’s message at the summit will be the need “to avoid efforts to resolve those disputes through one nation, bigger nation, bullying a smaller one”, uphold freedom of navigation, and to avoid “inadvertent and unnecessary” military action in the South China Sea.