Sea patrols will continue in South China Sea: US official
BEIJING (APP) - The US will continue naval patrols in the disputed South China Sea, Washington's National Security Adviser Susan Rice told Chinese representatives during a series of meetings in Beijing, a senior American official said Tuesday.
Rice is among the highest-level US officials to visit China since an international tribunal this month rejected its vast territorial claims in the strategically vital region -- infuriating Beijing and fuelling tensions with Washington.
Her trip was intended to prepare for a visit by President Barack Obama to a G20 summit in Hangzhou in September.
But the question of how to deal with the festering issue, in which Washington has played a prominent role, cast a long shadow over the talks, which included a meeting with President Xi Jinping.
In recent months Washington has sent naval vessels close to reefs and outcrops claimed by Beijing to assert the principle of freedom of navigation, sparking anger in China which has built a series of artificial islands in the area capable of supporting military operations.
In her meetings with top diplomatic and military officials, Rice told her counterparts that "those operations are lawful. They will continue", according to a senior US official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject.
The issue was not directly raised with Xi, he said, describing the conversation as "incredibly positive", although "there was a very clear recognition that we face a number of challenges".
In general terms, he said, "both sides were very clear with one another".
"There's no room for ambiguity," he added. "That kind of clarity... promotes stability and reduces the risk of miscalculation."