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America must ‘steer clear’ of China’s affairs: Former foreign minister

The future development of Sino-US ties is promising, but the United States should stay away from China's internal affairs, a retired Chinese diplomat has warned.

Li Zhaoxing, who was foreign minister between 2003 and 2007 and is known for his blunt comments, made the remarks on the sidelines of a seminar last week at a university in Hong Kong.

"I am fully confident about China-U.S. relations. The two countries share a lot of common interests but it is most important for [the U.S.] not to interfere in China's internal affairs," said Li, who also served as China's ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2001.

Li's remarks came as tensions rise between China and the U.S. over the South China Sea.

The two countries traded accusations on Thursday over the U.S. deployment of a reconnaissance plane near Chinese ­territory.

Li Zhaoxing, former Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China.
VCG/VCG/Getty Images
Li Zhaoxing, former Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China.

U.S. defence officials said Chinese jet fighters made an "unsafe" interception of a US Navy spy plane in international airspace, a claim China rejected.

The tensions are expected to overshadow the annual U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue early next month, with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague due to hand down a ruling on disputes in the sea soon.

"The islands in the South China Sea belong to us … The international court does not have the right [to rule]," Li said.

"The U.S. has been using the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [to pressure China].

"The U.S. itself hasn't even ratified the convention yet, which is ridiculous.

"We won't give even one inch when it [involves] China's territory. But we won't compete for [territory] if it is not ours."

Li, 75, also slammed the US for exaggerating China's military ­capacity.

"There have been certain politicians and researchers who have exaggerated the rise of China's military power and the threat it poses in the South China Sea … We have to be careful with these kinds of 'compliments'," Li said, adding that China's military strategy is defensive in nature.

He also supported President Xi Jinping's proposal to establish a new type of "major-country" relationship between China and the U.S, saying the idea has to be implemented.

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