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China tells U.S. to stay out of South China Seas dispute

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BEIJING, July 15 (Reuters) - China told the United States on Tuesday to stay out of disputes over the South China Sea and leave countries in the region to resolve problems themselves, after Washington said it wanted a freeze on stoking tension.

Michael Fuchs, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Strategy and Multilateral Affairs, said no country was solely responsible for escalating tension in the region. But he reiterated the U.S. view that "provocative and unilateral" behavior by Chinahad raised questions about its willingness to abide by international law.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to contain oil and gas deposits and has rich fishery resources. BruneiMalaysia, the Philippines,Vietnam and Taiwan also lay claim to parts of the sea, where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.

China's Foreign Ministry repeated that it had irrefutable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, where most of the competing claims overlap, and that China continued to demand the immediate withdrawal of personnel and equipment of countries which were "illegally occupying" China's islands.

"What is regretful is that certain countries have in recent years have strengthened their illegal presence through construction and increased arms build up," the ministry said in a statement.

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