0225 GMT November 18, 2019
After a private meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was concerned about the pace and scope of what he called Beijing’s “land reclamation” in the disputed waterway, The Associated Press reports.
Washington has said China’s territorial claims of man-made islands in the South China Sea will have negative consequences and could further militarize the region.
The US and most members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) want a halt to China’s building projects.
Kerry urged China to speed up talks with ASEAN to “reduce tensions and increase the prospect of diplomatic solutions.”
“I think we agree that the region needs smart diplomacy in order to conclude the ASEAN-China code of conduct and not outposts and military strips,” he said at a news conference with Wang.
China's foreign minister indicated that while Beijing was ready to negotiate, it would not back down on the projects that fall “fully within the scope of China’s sovereignty.”
“The determination of the Chinese side to safeguard our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock, and it is unshakable,” Wang said. “This position will remain unchanged in the future.”
US officials say China has “reclaimed” about 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of dry land in the Spratly Islands, one of the disputed areas, which could be used for military purposes.
Beijing claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
China accuses the United States of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.