BEIJING - China lashed out at the United States on Monday after the Obama administration sent six Uighur Chinese detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay to the Pacific island nation of Palau.
China has repeatedly demanded that the Uighurs be returned but the U.S. government has said it could not do so because they would face persecution, and it has searched for months for a nation willing to accept them.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the six were terror suspects and ought to have been sent back to China.
We express our extreme dissatisfaction and resolute opposition that the United States disregarded the Chinese side and insisted on sending the terror suspects to a third place, Ma said in a statement on the ministry's website (www.mfa.gov.cn).
China had made solemn representations to the United States about the issue, he added.
The six belonged to a terror group listed by the United Nations, and the United States had a duty to hand them over, Ma said.
China demands the United States abide by U.N. resolutions and fulfil its international anti-terror obligations, stop sending such terror suspects tofulfill third places, and should instead repatriate them to China as soon as possible, he added.
China opposes any country taking these terror suspects.
The Uighurs, who come from China's largely Muslim far-west region of Xinjiang, were swept up by the U.S. government during the Afghanistan war launched after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The choice of Palau is likely to further infuriate China as the island is one of only 23 countries that recognize Taiwan over Beijing.
Under its one China policy, Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and insists on eventual unification, by force if necessary.
The transfer leaves 215 detainees at the detention camp that President Barack Obama has pledged to close by January 22, though political and legal hurdles are making it difficult for his administration to meet that goal.
Palau has agreed to take up to 12 Uighurs. Seven still remain at the controversial Guantanamo prison which was set up by the Bush administration to house terror suspects. Four other Uighurs were moved to Bermuda in June.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)