China asserts control over vast sea area, angering neighbors, U.S.

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Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines and the United States have criticized China for imposing new access rules for the vast South China Sea, saying Beijing’s demand that foreign vessels get approval to enter the disputed maritime area is provocative and potentially destabilizing.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted Friday that the rules that went into effect at the start of the year are simply “technical revisions” of existing laws governing the resource-rich waters off China’s Hainan province. She said foreign governments’ complaints that Beijing is courting trouble spring from “ulterior motives.”

The latest maritime dispute among the neighbors with overlapping claims to islands and resources in the busy East Asian waterways has ratcheted up tensions in the region, coming less than two months after China proclaimed an Air Defense Identification Zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Under the ADIZ, foreign aircraft flying through the zone are required to file flight plans with Beijing, although the United States, Japan and South Korea have flown military aircraft through the region without getting China’s permission.

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