Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, salutes after speaking at the Xiangshan Forum, a gathering of the region's security officials, in Beijing, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
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A top Chinese general said Saturday that China's newly created islands in the disputed South China Sea are intended mainly to aid shipping and dismissed concerns that Beijing is seeking to strengthen its control over the strategically vital region.General Fan Changlong's remarks came as expectations grow that the U.S. might directly challenge Chinese claims in the South China Sea by sailing a Navy ship inside the 12-nautical mile (21-kilometer) territorial limit surrounding one of the man-made islands. Fan also said China would accelerate the establishment of an 8,000-member stand-by force for U.N. peacekeeping missions promised by Xi at the United Nations last month, as well as a commitment to train 2,000 foreign peacekeepers over the next five years.China will also pursue expanded military cooperation with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian States, whose defense ministers it hosted at a forum in Beijing on Friday. A massive military parade in Beijing last month showcased new missiles permitting China to hit targets -- including U.S. Navy ships and bases -- throughout the region.
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