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Photograph: Photo by Yosomono, used under CC BY

China firly rejected US claims that Beijing is "isolating" itself over territorial disputes in the South China Sea Sunday.

Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the joint staff department of China's Central Military Commission, urged a special session at the Shangri-La Dialogue to rebut remarks made by the US secretary of defence.

"I am worried some people and countries are still looking at China in the Cold War mentality and are prejudiced. They may build a war in their mind and end up isolating themselves," he said.

Sun's comments came after Major General Yao Yunzhu on Saturday evening rubbished claims that tensions in the South China Sea were a mere matter of access rights. He insisted that freedom of navigation was not affected by Chinese reclamation work on reefs and islands.

US defence chief Ashton Carter described China's activities sea as "self-isolating," and warned that it could lead to a "Great Wall of isolation" within the region.

Carter said China's potential land-reclamation activity on the disputed Scarborough Shoal – which the Philippines also claims – would be "provocative and destabilizing."

An international tribunal is set to give its decision on an arbitration case brought by the Philippines regarding its dispute with China over islands in the South China Sea such as the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

China has stated that it does not recognise the tribunal's jurisdiction.

"The purpose of the Philippines is to cover up its illegal occupancy of some reefs in the Nansha island," Sun said, using the Chinese name of the Spratly Islands.

"We do not make trouble, but we have no fear of trouble,” he said.

"China will not bear with the arbitration award, nor will it allow any infringement on its sovereignty and security interest, or stay indifferent to the irresponsible behaviour of some in the South China Sea.” 

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