China says U.S. welcome to use civilian facilities in South China Sea

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(Reuters) – The United States and other countries will be welcome to use civilian facilities China is building in the South China Sea for search and rescue and weather forecasting “when conditions are right”, China’s navy chief has told a senior U.S. officer.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Recent satellite images show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in the disputed Spratly Islands and may be planning another.

Those moves, along with other reclamations, have caused alarm around the region and in Washington too, with the issue dominating a summit of Southeast Asian leaders this week, to China’s displeasure.

In a teleconference with the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert, China’s navy chief Wu Shengli said China’s building work in the South China Sea would not affect freedom of navigation or overflight.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/01/us-china-usa-southchinasea-idUSKBN0NM31620150501

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