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US, China Agree to Work Together on South China Sea

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China's President Xi Jinping, right, chats with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew during the joint opening ceremony of the 8th U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogues in Beijing, Monday, June 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
China's President Xi Jinping, right, chats with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew during the joint opening ceremony of the 8th U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogues in Beijing, Monday, June 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

U.S. and Chinese officials Monday called for more diplomacy to ease tension over China’s claims to the South China Sea.

But experts say the dispute will continue.

Key leaders from both countries met in Beijing Monday for the eighth Strategic & Economic Dialogue. It is a yearly meeting designed to build cooperation between Chinese and U.S. leaders.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opened Monday’s meeting. He said the United States has not taken a position on China’s claims over the South China Sea.

“The only position we’ve taken is let’s not resolve this by unilateral action. Let's resolve this through rule of law, through diplomacy,” Kerry said.

China has accused the United States of taking sides against China’s South China Sea’s claims. Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday that “China and the U.S. need to increase communication and cooperation over Asia-Pacific affairs.”

China already has said it will not accept a ruling from a United Nations panel over its claims to almost all of the South China Sea.

The sea covers about 3.5-million square kilometers from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan. It is one of the world’s most important waterways.

In recent years, Chinese crews have developed artificial islands, complete with airstrips. There are competing claims to the Sea by Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

In recent months, there has been conflict between the U.S. and China over the South China Sea.

One of the most tense occurred last month when Chinese warplanes came close to a U.S. Navy patrol plane flying over the South China Sea.

During a visit last month to Vietnam, President Barack Obama drew cheers when he said: “Big nations should not bully smaller ones.” The China Daily, which shares the view of the Chinese government, said Obama and Vietnam risk turning the region “into a tinderbox of conflicts.”

Bonnie Glaser is director of the China Power Project for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She said the UN ruling, expected soon, will probably not slow China’s activities along the South China Sea.

But she said it is possible China will accept parts of the UN panel’s ruling, even as it officially rejects it. That might include stopping its interference with fishing along the South China Sea, Glaser said.

The South China Sea wasn’t the only issue brought up during Monday’s U.S.-China meeting in Beijing.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew asked China to cut steel production. Lew said too much Chinese steel is flooding markets and hurting producers, including from the United States.

President Xi promised steps to reduce Chinese steel production, but announced no new steps.

I'm Bruce Alpert.

Nike Ching reported on this story for VOANews.com. Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or share your views on our Facebook Page.

Words in This Story

tension n. a state in which people, groups, countries, etc., disagree with and feel anger toward each other

unilateraladj. involving only one group or country

bullyv. someone who frightens, hurts, or threatens smaller or weaker people

tinderbox – n. a place or situation that could suddenly become very violent

centrallyadv. controlled by a central figure or government

adoptv. to begin a policy

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