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China warns U.S., Japan, Australia not to gang up in sea disputes

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (L-R), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida prepare to t
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (L-R), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida prepare to t

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China said on Monday the United States, Australia and Japan should not use their alliance as an excuse to intervene in territorial disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and urged them to refrain from inflaming regional tensions.

On Friday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry raised the maritime disputes during a trilateral strategic dialogue in Bali, Indonesia.

Relations between China and Japan, the world's second- and third-largest economies, have been troubled in recent years by a row over tiny, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

In the South China Sea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and China are involved in long-standing sovereignty disputes over the potentially oil- and gas-rich island chain.

A joint statement from the U.S.-Japan-Australia meeting opposed "coercive or unilateral actions" that could change the status quo in the East China Sea and called on claimants to maritime disputes in the South China Sea to refrain from destabilizing actions, according to the State Department website.

"The United States, Japan and Australia are allies but this should not become an excuse to interfere in territorial disputes, otherwise it will only make the problems more complicated and harm the interests of all parties," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday.

"We urge the relevant countries to respect facts, distinguish right from wrong, be cautious, and stop all words and deeds that are not beneficial to the proper handling of the issue and undermine regional stability," she said in comments on the ministry website.

The U.S.-Japan-Australia meeting took place on the sidelines of an annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali.

Separately, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, voiced China's opposition to Kishida's raising of maritime security at an informal breakfast meeting with foreign ministers, saying that it has long been considered inappropriate to discuss issues of political security or sensitive and controversial topics at APEC.

"There has not been a problem with freedom and security of navigation in this region for a long time," Qin said in another statement released late on Sunday.

"Playing up so-called maritime security issue goes against real efforts for the freedom and security of navigation."

(Reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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