U.S. becoming driver of militarization in South China Sea, senior China diplomat says

FILE PHOTO: China's State Councillor Wang Yi is pictured during a meeting with Canada's Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne in Rome, Italy, August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

HONG KONG (Reuters) - The Chinese government’s senior diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said on Wednesday the United States is directly intervening in territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea due to its own political needs.

It is becoming the biggest driver of militarization in the region, Wang said.

He made the remark in a video conference with foreign ministers at an ASEAN summit.

“Peace and stability is China’s greatest strategic interest in the South China Sea. It is also the common strategic aspiration of China and ASEAN countries,” Wang said in a statement posted on the foreign ministry’s website.

Wang said China is willing to communicate and have dialogue with the United States in order to achieve cooperation.

Last month, the United States blacklisted 24 Chinese companies and targeted individuals it said were part of construction and military actions in the South China Sea, its first such sanctions move against Beijing over the disputed strategic waterway.

Reporting by Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong and Colin Qian in Beijing; Editing by Hugh Lawson