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Assertive China Plays Down Sea Disputes

A destroyer of the South China Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy fire a missile during a training in South China Sea (File)

China has brushed off complaints from its neighbors over disputes about maritime boundaries. The rebuff comes after Beijing announced it will be more active diplomatically this year.

A day after Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Beijing’s foreign policy will serve the country’s economic development, China reasserted its sovereignty over the resource-rich South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu Tuesday brushed off recent protests from the Philippines and Vietnam following separate incidents in the disputed waters.

Jiang says China holds indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea.

She says China seeks to solve disputes with friendly consultation with other countries.

Several other nations claim parts of the South China Sea.

The Philippines president last week said his government formally protested to Beijing after two Chinese naval boats harassed a Philippines oil exploration team in a contested area.

Vietnam objected to Chinese counter-piracy drills near the disputed Spratly islands.

The protests add to growing calls from Southeast Asian leaders for a code of conduct for economic and military activity in the disputed waters.

The South China Sea and other waters near China's coast contain vital shipping lanes and may be rich in oil and gas reserves.

China claims most of the South China Sea as its own and has resisted signing a set of rules.

Japan recently complained after run-ins with Chinese vessels near islets Tokyo controls, but Beijing claims.

Foreign Minister Yang told journalists Monday that Beijing will this year focus on what he calls "summit diplomacy" this year in a "comprehensive" and "coordinated way". He made the comments on the sidelines of the National Peoples Congress going on this week.