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China hits back at US over South China Sea

BEIJING -- China on Saturday voiced “its strong dissatisfaction and opposition” after the United States accused Beijing of raising tensions by setting up a new military garrison in the South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang was cited by the official Xinhua News Agency as making the remarks after the United States hit out at China over its decision last week to establish the garrison in the disputed Paracel Islands.

The U.S. criticism “completely ignored the facts, deliberately confounded right and wrong, sending a seriously wrong signal,” Qin was quoted as saying in a statement.

It did not help efforts aimed at “safeguarding the peace and stability of the South China Sea and the Asia Pacific region,” he said.

China's decision to establish the garrison and the tiny city of Sansha in the hotly contested archipelago infuriated other claimants Vietnam and the Philippines, which accused Beijing of intimidation.

U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement Friday that the United States was “concerned by the increase in tensions in the South China Sea and is monitoring the situation closely.”

“In particular, China's upgrading of the administrative level of Sansha city and establishment of a new military garrison there covering disputed areas of the South China Sea run counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region,” he said.

China says it controls much of the South China Sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam all claim portions. Vietnam and the Philippines have accused China of stepping up harassment at sea.

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