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China hits Tillerson's remarks on evading South China Sea issue

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listen to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, right, during a joint press conference in Sydney, Monday, June 5, 2017. In their first joint appearance abroad, Secretary Mattis and Secretary of State Tillerson pledged unity with longtime ally Australia in fighting Islamic extremists who seek to intimidate the West. AP/Rick Rycroft

MANILA, Philippines — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson irked Beijing in his recent comment that China is using its economic powers to buy its way out of problems.

"China is a significant economic and trading power, and we desire a productive relationship, but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failure to put appropriate pressure on North Korea," Tillerson said in Sydney.

READ: US accuses China of 'buying its way out' of sea row

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, reiterated that China and Southeast Asian countries have been making efforts to jointly uphold peace and stability in the disputed South China Sea.

Beijing also stressed that it has been pushing for the peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

"We hope relevant parties can fully respect and support regional countries’ efforts to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and play a constructive role in this regard, rather than the opposite," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Monday.

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Hua noted that the US and Australia have made remarks on the contested waters.

In a joint statement after the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations in Sydney, Tillerson and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called for the demilitarization of disputed features in the South China Sea.

China insisted that the South China Sea issue has returned to the track of solution through negotiation and consultation of concerned parties.

"China and the Philippines have reached consensus on properly addressing the South China Sea issue and have just successfully held the first meeting of the bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea issue," Hua said.

Hua added that China and ASEAN countries have reached a framework of a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

"China and ASEAN countries are also actively engaged in maritime practical cooperation and follow through on a series of early harvest projects," the spokesperson said.

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