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U.S. Urges Negotiation in South China Sea Disputes

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2011 – The United States, like the rest of the world, has a deep interest in ensuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and in helping defuse tensions over territorial disputes there, a senior defense official said yesterday.

Speaking on background at a Center for Strategic and International Studies conference on maritime security in the South China Sea, the official reiterated Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s support for peaceful resolution regarding territorial disputes in the strategically critical region.

The South China Sea is a vital shipping lane that possesses vast oil and gas deposits. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all lay claim to overlapping parts of it, causing regional friction and several recent confrontations.

“The United States, like every nation, has an interest in the freedom of navigation and open access to Asia’s maritime commons and with respect for international law in the South China Sea,” the official said at theforum.

He cited Gates’ comments earlier this month at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, where the secretary emphasized U.S. support for “freedom of navigation and unimpeded economic development and commerce and respect for international law.”

Gates warned at the summit that lack of a strong multilateral mechanism for nations to settle their disputes peacefully could cause problems to escalate. “I fear that without rules of the road, without agreed approaches to deal with these problems, that there will be clashes,” he told attendees. “I think that serves nobody’s interests.”

The secretary urged the countries involved to establish a code of conduct based on an agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China to promote peaceful resolution of their territorial disputes.

“Given recent events, we would hope that all parties will be able to make tangible progress” toward creating this code of conduct, the defense official said.

Until that can be achieved, the United States recognizes customary international law, as reflected in the U.N. Convention of the Laws of the Sea, as providing “clear guidance” regarding the maritime domain, he said.

The United States does not take positions on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, he said. It does, however, urge nations to pursue their territorial claims and accompanying rights to maritime space in accordance with international law and through diplomatic means.

Although encouraged by nations’ stated interest in peaceful resolution, “we remain concerned” that actions haven’t always been in line with that goal and could lead to further incidents, the official said.

This, he said, “could threaten the safety, security and stability of the region.”


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Robert M. Gates


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

6/24/2011 11:51:00 PM
communist red china's greedy and aggression needed to be stopped in south china sea. Vietnam, Philippine, Japan, Malaysia and with the help of the US 7th Fleet, we can gang up on the greedy, aggressive red communist china. We will send every chinese made float to the floor of south chinese sea, and send them back to start build more great walls of china !
- chiny devil, planet earth

6/24/2011 8:52:19 PM
To China_Boston_Lee, I wish that the communist China will teach the communist Vietnam a lesson just like the 1979 lesson. Then you and your greedy Chinese people will have to learn a big lesson that is even if you win a war with VN, your people will be isolated with all countries in the world. The best thing out of my imagination is the better relationship between VN and the US, and eventually VN will become a free country. I am a mug (75% Chinese and 25% Vietnamese in my blood, other half of my big family are still living in Hainan island) but I am pround to be an America not because of this is a rich country or... but only for one reason, that is we have the best constitution in the world, especially the bill of rights. If you want to use old maps as your proving point then why do not used the map from the old day that Gengis Khan conquered half the continent. Ha ha ha!!! you are very funny! big boy. Best regards, Tuan
- Andy, Houston, TX

6/23/2011 9:34:28 AM
China has an 1,400-year-old historical title to the Paracel and? Spratly Islands from 618 A.D.? China's historical title to the South China Sea islands trumps the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea as clearly written in Article 15. “Article 15 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the delineation rule for overlapping territorial sea claims does not apply to areas of historical title.” [Luke's post] From UN? website on Article 15: “The above provision does not apply, however, where it is necessary? by reason of historic title or other special circumstances to delimit the territorial seas of the two States in a way which is at variance therewith.”
- China Lee, Boston

6/23/2011 6:35:37 AM
A positive US - Sino relationship is important in context but by no mean a bargaining chip for any national interest of the United States. As the world preeminent seafaring nation, freedom at the seas is a non-negotiable interest of the United States and US lawmakers will not jeopardize it for a relationship with any country, Red China included. [1] US Secrerary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton has made it clear at an ASEAN conference last year that it is a US national interest in the South China Sea. The United States itself of course has no stake in this territorial dispute but it has a much broader interest at stake in the region: freedom, peace, security and stability for Asian countries and US busineses. [1] Walter Lohman, Sorting American Priorities in the South China Sea, the Heritage Foundation, June 20, 2011.
- Douglas P., Massachusetts, USA

6/22/2011 12:45:55 PM
China Lee, thanks for pointing it out Cauchi is the old name of Vietnam (i.e. Giao Chi in Vietnamese). So more historical evidence that China is invading VN territory.
- Khoi, Vietnam

6/22/2011 12:30:20 PM
The Big Bad China is simply spreading lies about who is sirring tension in the area while taking assertive actions and bullying its neighbors. According to UNCLOS, Vietnam and the Phillipines have their legal rights to the exclusive economic zones (EEZ). It's a fact that China's military disguised as marine surveillance ships harrassed VN and PH's survey ships within these two countries' 200-mile EEZ, which is over 300 miles away from the southern tip of China. Hundreds of VN poor fishermen and fishing boats have been ransacked by China and were mostly released when their families agreed to pay ransoms. Now China is launching its aircraft carrier and developing carrier killer missiles and stealth fighter aircraft to counter U.S. military power, its aggressive behavior is only to increase in this region. Who is going to believe the tiny VN or PH dare invade China's territory? Shame on you, China, for your lies!
- Richard, Connecticut

6/21/2011 8:06:40 PM
Lee, Instead of living in Boston, you are better to go back to red China because you are conflicting with America's interests. Thanks, Andy
- Andy, Houston

6/21/2011 1:04:54 PM
Vietnamese and Filipinos should stop encroaching on thousand-year-old Chinese territory in the South China Sea. Source: Wikipedia article on Paracel Islands with primary sources listed in footnotes "The coast belonged to the Kingdom of Cauchi China." "China 618~1279 * There are some Chinese cultural relics in the Paracel islands dating from the Tang and Song dynasty eras[12][note 1], and there is some evidence of Chinese habitation on the islands in these periods.[13]."
- China Lee, Boston

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