U.S. Urges ASEAN, China to Negotiate Rules to Resolve Disputes
By Phillip Kurata
Washington - Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton has called on China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to negotiate a code of conduct to resolve disputes in the South China Sea.
"No nation can fail to be concerned by the increase in tensions, the uptick in confrontational rhetoric and disagreements over resource exploitation. We have seen worrisome instances of economic coercion and the problematic use of military and government vessels in connection with disputes among fishermen," Clinton said to reporters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 12.
She was in the Cambodian capital representing the United States at the 10-nation ASEAN ministerial conference that also drew foreign ministers from Japan, South Korea and China and representatives from other countries and regions with strong ties to Southeast Asia. The ASEAN members are Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Clinton said the United States has a fundamental interest in the freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law and unimpeded, lawful commerce in the South China Sea. "We believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively and diplomatically to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and certainly without the use of force," Clinton said.
The secretary acknowledged that the ASEAN and Chinese foreign ministers were having difficulty reaching agreement on the wording of the final communiqué because of the South China Sea disputes. She said that the fact that they were addressing the issue was a sign of maturity.
"They're not ducking them; they're walking right into them," Clinton said.
On the sideline of the ASEAN conference, Clinton met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to strengthen various aspects of the U.S.-China relationship, such as science and technology, energy and the environment, and public health and safety. "We are committed to working with China within a framework that fosters cooperation where interests align and manages differences where they do not," Clinton said.
Her meetings with counterparts from Japan, South Korea and the European Union gave her "a chance to compare notes" on how each is stepping up its engagement with the region. She said the United States is launching a new effort to reform and reinvigorate its assistance to ASEAN known as the Asia Pacific Strategic Engagement Initiative.
The initiative will deal with six elements: regional security cooperation, economic integration and trade, engagement in the Lower Mekong region, transnational threats, democratic development and war legacies.
"This adds up to a robust, systematic assistance package that will secure sustained levels of American support for the things we all care most about," she said in her remarks at the ministerial meeting July 11.
Clinton told reporters that the United States is easing sanctions on Burma to allow American businesses to invest there while keeping in place the U.S. arms embargo and the ban on contacts between U.S. businesses and the Burmese military.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)