China says did not start standoff in South China Sea

10:01 p.m. CDT, |
April 24, 2012

BEIJING (Reuters) – China did not start the current standoff in the South China Sea, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday, ahead of high-level talks with the Obama administration as tensions simmer between Beijing and the Philippines over the disputed waters.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai made the comments at a news briefing in Beijing before an annual strategic and economic dialogue with senior U.S. officials next week.

Cui said China was committed to dialogue and diplomacy to resolve the sovereignty dispute over the region.

China has territorial disputes with several countries in the southeast Asia, including the Philippines, over areas of the South China Sea, which could be rich in oil and gas and is spanned by busy shipping lanes. The United States has urged Beijing to address the disputes in a multilateral way, but Beijing has said it will deal with them one on one.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee)

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