Chủ Nhật, 10 tháng 8, 2014

China Rejects U.S. Proposal to Ease South China Sea Tensions

China rebuffed a U.S. proposal for

countries to refrain from “provocative” acts in the South

China Sea as growing tensions over disputed territorial claims

dominated a meeting of regional foreign ministers.

“It’s no understatement that what happens here matters not

just to this region and to the U.S. but it matters to everybody

in the world,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said

yesterday at the first day of the Asean Regional Forum in

Naypyitaw, Myanmar. “That’s why we’re encouraging claimant

states to consider voluntarily agreeing to refrain from taking

certain actions” that could escalate disputes, he said.

Despite China’s clashes with the Philippines and Vietnam in

the South China Sea, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that talk of

rising tensions was exaggerated and questioned the motives of

those calling for limiting activities in the region.

“We do not agree with such a practice, and we call for

vigilance in the motives behind them,” Wang said yesterday.

“Any proposal to come up with an alternative would only disrupt

discussion of the code of conduct.”

Confrontations between China and some of its Southeast

Asian neighbors have flared in the year since China agreed to

talks on a code of conduct for the South China Sea. As

negotiations stalled, China continued to assert its claims with

ships, an oil rig and by building structures on rocks in waters

thought to be rich in oil and gas, fueling confrontations with

the Philippines and Vietnam.

Sea Disputes

The Obama administration has been trying to shift its

foreign policy focus to Asia, where it is treaty bound to

protect allies such as the Philippines and Japan, which has its

own simmering territorial spat with China. The U.S. effort to

mediate in the sea disputes has been criticized by China, and

tensions between Wang and Kerry were apparent in Myanmar.

Wang began his press briefing with Kerry by scolding the

secretary of state for keeping him waiting.

“We have been here at 4:30 p.m., waiting for you for more

than half an hour,” Wang said in Chinese through an

interpreter, prompting an apology from Kerry.

Kerry and Wang were participating in the Asean Regional

Forum, a gathering of ministers from the 10-member Association

of Southeast Asian Nations
plus foreign ministers from other

countries including the U.S., China, Japan, Russia, South and
North Korea, Australia and Canada.

‘Seriously Concerned’

“We remained seriously concerned over recent developments

which had increased tensions in the South China Sea and

reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability,

maritime security as well as freedom of navigation,” the forum

said in its final statement.

All parties involved should “exercise restraint” and

“settle disputes through peaceful means, without resorting to

the threat or use of force,” the ministers said in the

statement. The Forum also called for an early conclusion to the

code of conduct talks.

China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea under

a map first published in 1947, a territory which extends

hundreds of miles south from Hainan Island and takes in the
Paracel Islands, which are claimed by Vietnam, and the Spratly

Islands, some of which are claimed by the Philippines.

Deadly anti-Chinese riots broke out in Vietnam in May after

China placed an oil rig off islands claimed by the country. The

Philippines has tried to haul China before an UN tribunal as

Chinese ships increasingly operate off its coast. China has

refused to recognize the UN arbitration case.

Decided, Clear

“For the Chinese, the issue is decided and clear, they

have sovereignty over most of South China Sea,” said Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of

International Studies in Singapore. “They just need to get

everyone else to sign off on it.” Barring acquiescence from

the rest of Asean, “there will be a standoff,” he said.

The forum also provided a venue for the first meeting

between the foreign ministers of Japan and China since Japanese

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power in December 2012.

Relations between the two countries have been strained by their

own territorial spat in the East China Sea and lingering

resentment over Japan’s militarism before and during World War


Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida had sought the

talks to lay the groundwork for a possible first summit between

Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, when Beijing hosts the

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing in


Barriers to Relations

Wang in a statement called on Japan to remove “barriers”

to improving bilateral relations.

North Korea’s nuclear program was also an issue of

discussion, with Kerry meeting his Japanese and South Korean

counterparts today for talks that touched on how to contain

North Korea’s weapons program.

“As we meet here at the second trilateral meeting, the

situation on the Korean Peninsula is very uncertain and unstable

because of the growing threats from North Korea,” Korean

Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se said, including what he called the

continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles. “It’s the

right time for us to map out our joint strategy.”

To contact the reporters on this story:

David Tweed in Hong Kong at;

Kyaw Thu in Bangkok at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:

Rosalind Mathieson at

Fergal O’Brien

China Rejects U.S. Proposal to Ease South China Sea Tensions

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