China seeks to calm US fears over territorial dispute

China’s ties with the United States remain stable, Chinese president Xi Jinping said yesterday, as he sought to defuse tension over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea that has raised fears of confrontation.

“I look forward to continuing to develop this relationship with President Obama and to bring China-US relations to a new height along a track of a new model of major country relationship,” Xi told US secretary of state John Kerry at the end of Kerry’s two-day trip to China.

Kerry’s trip has been dominated by deepening security concerns about Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the South China Sea.

China’s rapid reclamation effort around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

Xi told Kerry that China and the US should handle disputes in a way that would not damage bilateral ties.

On Saturday, Kerry urged China to take action to reduce tension in the South China Sea. His call was rebuffed by China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, who said Beijing’s determination to protect its interests in the area is “as hard as a rock”.

Kerry’s trip is intended to prepare for the annual US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue next month in Washington and Xi’s expected visit to Washington in September, a trip that Xi said he looked forward to.

Xi has repeatedly told Obama of his desire for a “new model of major country relationship,” in which China would be viewed as an equal global player.

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