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US relays SCS militarization concern with China

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday relayed to his counterpart in Beijing Washington's "consistent concerns" on the alleged militarization in the South China Sea amid latest developments in the disputed waters in the region.

Pompeo, who met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for the first time, did not elaborate the talks about the disputed sea lane, but said they had a "good discussion" on the subject.

"We had a chance to talk about that. And I will leave to our militaries to talk about their efforts together," he said during the joint presser with Wang in Washington.

Wang, in Washington for a stopover after attending the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting in Argentina, confirmed that concerns on Chinese activities in the area were raised, but denied there is militarization.

Last week, Beijing reportedly landed Chinese bombers, including a long-range H-6K, in one of its reclaimed islands in the South China Sea.

"On the so-called militarization in the South China Sea, we talked about this issue. China is only building civilian and some necessary defense facilities on our own islands. That is the right to self-defense and preservation of every sovereign state," Wang said.

"It is a normal deployment and has nothing to do with militarization, just like the US has military presence in Hawaii, in Guam. And China’s deployment is at a much smaller scale than the US. It’s just out of necessary defense purposes. We don’t hope to see any exaggeration or hype-up of this matter," he added.

The strategic waterway, where a trillion-dollar worth of trade passes annually, is contested by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

While not a claimant state, the US sees itself as an interested party in the South China Sea. It has repeatedly stressed it will continue to conduct regular freedom of navigation operations in the region.

Joyce Ann L. Rocamora / PNA