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US: We will not ignore China's challenge to rules-based order

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Washington. AP/Jacquelyn Martin

MANILA, Philippines — While maintaining relations with Beijing, Washington stressed that it will not "shrink or ignore" its challenges to the international rules-based order.

In his remarks on US-India relations, US State Secretary Rex Tillerson criticized China for its activities in the disputed South China Sea.

"China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for," Tillerson said Thursday (Manila time).

In a separate media briefing, the US State Department noted that international order has been under a lot of strain.

A senior US State Department official added that Tillerson said that he wanted constructive relations with China and that he is in regular contact with the Chinese leadership.

READ: Tillerson seeks stronger ties with India, chides China

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"China has risen alongside India, but China has done so less responsibly and China has undermined the international rules-based order while countries like India operate within this rules-based order," the State Department said.

The official added that the US has supported the rise of both China and India, which have "risen very differently."

"But we are not going to shrink or ignore China’s challenges to the rules-based order, or where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries," the US State Department said.

"And when you look, as the Secretary (Tillerson) said about the shared values, shared security, shared national security interests, shared economies, shared democracies, this is a great friendship that we want to expand and deepen on all areas," the official added.

Earlier this year, Tillerson accused Beijing of using its economic power to evade issues such as the South China Sea dispute and the tension on the Korean Peninsula.

"We desire productive relationships, but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether its militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea," Tillerson said in Sydney last June.

China has been undermining the 2016 award issued by an international arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment under the UNCLOS when it constructed artificial islands within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

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