Beijing tries to soothe South China Sea jitters

Filipino environmental activists rally outside China's consular office in Manila on May 11, 2015 against Beijing's reclamation and construction activities on islands and reefs in the Spratly islands the South China SeaBeijing sought to soothe tensions over its South China Sea claims Saturday, saying it will avoid the use of force in the region as the US ponders sending warships close to territory claimed by the Asian giant. Speaking at the Xiangshan regional defence forum in Beijing, Fan Changlong, vice-chair of China’s Central Military Commission, pledged that the country would “never recklessly resort to the use of force, even on issues bearing on sovereignty”. The US says that China’s transformation of South China Sea reefs into artificial islands capable of hosting military facilities presents a threat to freedom of navigation, and defence officials have hinted they may soon use naval forces to test Chinese claims.

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