US cools sea tensions but refuses to confront China

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US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) shakes hands with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario before the start of the 4th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign ministers' meeting in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on Sunday. AFP PHOTO

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) shakes hands with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario before the start of the 4th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign ministers’ meeting in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on Sunday. AFP PHOTO

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: The United States on Sunday pressed its case for a freeze on hostile acts in waters contested by China and its Southeast Asian neighbors, but said it did not want to “confront” Beijing over its strategy in the region.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing for an agreement to end all actions that risk further inflaming regional relations, following several tense encounters in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) this year.

Washington’s top diplomat is touring the region despite a slew of major international crises in other parts of the world as the US looks to reinvigorate alliances in the Asia-Pacific as part of President Barack Obama’s “pivot” east.

Sea disputes dominated security talks at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw on Sunday afternoon.

The meet brings together Southeast Asian foreign ministers and key partners, including the US, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the European Union.

A senior US administration official said concern among its Southeast Asian allies about “Chinese behavior was at an all time high.”

But the official insisted there would not be a “showdown” between the two world superpowers.

“We don’t want to confront China. But we have a series of interests and principles that drive our approach in the region where they diverge with China,” the official said.

Kerry on Saturday formally put forward Washington’s proposal to cool maritime tensions based on claimant states agreeing to step back from actions that could “complicate or escalate disputes.”

The US waded into the South China Sea row following a series of maritime incidents between China and rival claimants, including Beijing’s positioning of an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam which sparked deadly riots in the Southeast Asian nation.

‘Galvanizing’ role
China claims sovereignty over almost the entire sea, which lies on key shipping routes and is believed to be rich in mineral and oil deposits.

But its claims overlap with ASEAN states Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan.

US officials hailed American influence in ASEAN talks that began Friday, saying it had helped the bloc issue a united statement on the sea issue, which has previously seen friction between some member states with maritime claims and supporters of China.

“We think we have been successful in galvanizing and serving as a catalyst,” said a State Department official.

ASEAN said it was “seriously concerned” over the maritime disputes, in a statement by foreign ministers Sunday, that had been delayed as members wrangled over the language of the South China Sea section.

“We urged all parties concerned to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions which would complicate the situation and undermine peace, stability, and security,” it said.

While China says it is not the aggressor in the disputed waters, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday warned that “the Chinese side is bound to make clear and firm reactions” if provoked.

Wang held a bilateral meeting with his American counterpart on Saturday.

In a statement released by the Chinese embassy in Myanmar following the talks, Beijing welcomed “the constructive role” played by the US in regional affairs, adding that it “hopes that the US can respect China’s legitimate rights and interests in this region.”

AFP

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4 Comments

  1. Don’t you get it? It is not in America’s interest to confront China. America is prepared to sell its partners down the drain for the sake of expediency of trade, . . trade, . . I say once again . . .T R A D E!!

    Lame ducks as presidents in the Philippines and America which country is fiscally broke and China which holds trillions of dollars in bonds has the nation of America on its dog chain / leash.

    Lack of forward planning by past and present presidents of America has left the world in a desperate state for Communism to take hold.

  2. Let’s not wait till China has three or four aircraft carriers. This will be achieved in 3 to 4 years! let’s not be naive to think that US will come to our side. This is the reason the Japanese is augmenting military capabilities from defense to being able to counter attack.

  3. The best way to deal with the Spratley Islands is to put our flag and relocate our military posts into the islands within our ECZ. If the Chinese shoot we shoot.. Hopefully it will catch the attention of the world.

  4. There is no compromise, there is no accommodation with Communist China. It is China’s way or the highway. I hope the Philippines is putting all it’s resources in trying to strengthen its Naval & military capability, even though we do not have a prayer against this bully.