China has told the United States to stay out of its business amid the ongoing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
China currently claims over 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is rich with deposits of oil and gas. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei also lay claim to parts of the sea, and are disputing China’s territorial claims.
The U.S. has recently raised concerns over China’s claims, questioning its ability to abide by international law. The U.S. called for the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to have a discussion on international law and the territorial disputes regarding the South China Sea.
U.S. involvement has prompted China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to release a statement on foreign involvement in the dispute.
“[China] hopes that countries outside the region strictly maintain their neutrality, clearly distinguish right from wrong and earnestly respect the joint efforts of countries in the region to maintain regional peace and stability,” the ministry said.
Anti-Chinese riots have recently erupted in Vietnam after China’s state oil company placed an oil rig in waters that had been claimed by the Vietnamese government. Vietnam has also accused China of harassing its fishermen. On Tuesday China deported 13 Vietnamese fishermen for illegally fishing close to a group of islands in the South China Sea that have been claimed by China.
“What is regretful is that certain countries have in recent years strengthened their illegal presence through construction and increased arms build up,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, U.S. chief of naval operations, is currently in China on a five day trip, but did not say whether the territorial disputes would be discussed.
A naval official accompanying Greenert said in a statement on the conflict, “We both acknowledge that these things exist, but the intent of these meetings is to look at ways we can work better together.”