Clinton urges legal resolution of Eastern Sea Dispute

July 23, 2010. Washington. Although the United States does not take sides in the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the Obama administration wants claimants to pursue their disputes in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea rather than through coercion.

Speaking July 23 to reporters following the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN ) Regional Forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, Clinton said the United States and every other nation “has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” which contains some of the busiest commercial sea lanes in the world.

Sovereignty disputes over the Spratly and Paracel island chains, which are potentially rich in natural resources, have pitted China against some of its neighbors, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

“We oppose the use or threat of force by any claimant,” Clinton said.

The parties instead should pursue their territorial claims and rights through the Law of the Sea Convention. “Consistent with customary international law, legitimate claims to maritime space in the South China Sea should be derived solely from legitimate claims to land features,” Clinton said.

The United States encourages all of the parties to agree upon a full code of conduct, she said, adding the Obama administration “is prepared to facilitate initiatives and confidence-building measures” that are consistent with the 2002 ASEAN-China declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea.

“It is in the interest of all claimants and the broader international community for unimpeded commerce to proceed under lawful conditions,” the secretary said. This involves “respect for the interests of the international community and responsible efforts to address these unresolved claims and help create the conditions for resolution of the disputes and a lowering of regional tensions.”

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Clinton Urges Legal Resolution of South China Sea Dispute, July 23, 2010

The U.S. Takes Tougher Tone with China,” John Pomfret, Washington Post, July 30. Pomfret reports that in the face of China’s testing of U.S. capabilities, the United States has a responded by rejecting Chinese claims to sovereignty over the whole South China Sea and rebuffed Chinese demands that the U.S. end its policy of conducting military exercises in the Yellow Sea.

U.S.-ASEAN PARTNERSHIP

At the conclusion of the ASEAN Regional Forum, Secretary Clinton signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.. Through the treaty, the United States joins the 10 ASEAN members in pledging to “promote perpetual peace, everlasting amity and to cooperate in economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields,” according to a State Department fact sheet.

According to the fact sheet, the United States pursued its accession to the treaty to strengthen its relationships in Southeast Asia and to develop a stronger and more productive presence in the region.

“The speed at which the United States worked together with ASEAN members to realize U.S. accession to the Treaty highlights our re-energized involvement in Southeast Asia, as well as the close mutual ties sought by ASEAN and the United States,” the fact sheet says.

In remarks at ASEAN’s post-ministerial meeting in Hanoi July 23, Clinton said she and President Obama share the view that “America’s future is intimately tied to that of the Asia-Pacific” region, noting that the United States “is a Pacific nation.”

The region is now America’s sixth largest export market and hosts more U.S. business investment than China, Clinton said, and the United States “is very supportive and optimistic” about ASEAN’s future.

“Our partnership is rooted in common interests. We are committed to assisting the nations of Southeast Asia to remain strong and independent, and that each nation enjoys peace, stability, prosperity and access to universal human rights,” she said.

The secretary’s participation in ASEAN’s Ministerial Conference and Regional Forum followed a visit to South Korea, where she announced new U.S. sanctions against North Korea, and meetings with Vietnamese officials, where she celebrated the growing U.S.-Vietnamese relationship and signed a five-year plan to cooperate with Vietnam against HIV/AIDS.