Beijing, Mar 8: China today claimed that the South China Sea dispute has "calmed down" and said it will not allow the "hard-won" stability of the region to be "disturbed" again by outside forces.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi's annual press conference was dominated by a host of issues, including the crisis in the Korean Peninsula and China's relations with the US after President Donald Trump's election.
Talking about the South China Sea dispute, Wang said the issue has "calmed down" and warned that China will never allow the stability of the region to be disturbed again.
"China will never allow hard-won stability in the South China Sea, (SCS) to be disturbed or undermined again," Wang said as Trump administration deployed an aircraft carrier in the disputed region to assert freedom of navigation.
In his media interaction, Wang took questions on China's ties with all major countries. On the SCS, Wang said, "at this moment, if someone should try to make waves and stir trouble, they will have no support and face common opposition of the entire region".
Last year, China waged a major international campaign to ward off the impact of the international tribunal which struck down Beijing's claim over almost all of the SCS in response to a petition from the Philippines.
But the situation changed to Beijing's favour after the election of Rodrigo Duterte as President of Philippines who in a U-turn moved closer to China and agreed to set the SCS dispute aside in lieu of heavy Chinese investments.
Wang said since Duterte came to office, he has handled the SCS issue properly and actively improved the Philippines' relations with China, Wang said.
"The Philippines has extended a hand of goodwill, so China of course will embrace it with open arms of cooperation. China and the Philippines are making up the lost time. The potential of bilateral cooperation is rapidly growing," he said.
In less than six months since October last year, there have been about 1,000 new tourist groups from China to the Philippines, and China has imported more than 200,000 tonnes of tropical fruits from the Philippines, he said.
Cooperation on infrastructure projects, including roads, bridges and dams, is being actively discussed, with some becoming operational this year, Wang said.