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US Secretary of State Kerry urges China to halt land reclamation projects in disputed waters

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference following meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China, Saturday, May 16, 2015. Kerry is in China to press Beijing to halt increasingly assertive actions it is taking in the South China Sea that have alarmed the United States and China's smaller neighbors. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference following meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China, Saturday, May 16, 2015. Kerry is in China to press Beijing to halt increasingly assertive actions it is taking in the South China Sea that have alarmed the United States and China's smaller neighbors. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference following meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China, Saturday, May 16, 2015. Kerry is in China to press Beijing to halt increasingly assertive actions it is taking in the South China Sea that have alarmed the United States and China's smaller neighbors. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference following meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China, Saturday, May 16, 2015. Kerry is in China to press Beijing to halt increasingly assertive actions it is taking in the South China Sea that have alarmed the United States and China's smaller neighbors. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi after their joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing Saturday, May 16, 2015. Kerry is in China to press Beijing to halt increasingly assertive actions it is taking in the South China Sea that have alarmed the United States and China's smaller neighbors. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi after their joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing Saturday, May 16, 2015. Kerry is in China to press Beijing to halt increasingly assertive actions it is taking in the South China Sea that have alarmed the United States and China's smaller neighbors. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)  (The Associated Press)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is urging China to halt increasingly assertive actions it is taking in the South China Sea.

Amid verbal sparring between Washington and Beijing over land reclamation projects that China is conducting in disputed waters, Kerry urged Chinese officials to reduce tensions in the South China Sea.

In response, China's foreign minister Wang Yi said his country was interested in dialogue on the matter but would not back down on defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity as they relate to its claims.

The claims have rattled the region where South China Sea islands and reefs are contested by China and five other Asian governments. The U.S. says it takes no position on the sovereignty claims but insists they must be negotiated.