US: Settle sea disputes without coercion

2012-07-12 10:42
Hillary Clinton. (AP, File)

Hillary Clinton. (AP, File)

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Phnom Penh - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday urged nations with rival territorial claims in the South China Sea to settle their disputes "without coercion".

Nations should "resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats, and without use of force", she said, according to a text of her remarks distributed to media at an Asian regional forum in Cambodia.

The Philippines and Vietnam accuse China of aggression over its claims to contested islands and are keen to craft a "code of conduct" (CoC) at the summit to govern the response to territorial spats in the area.

Clinton is scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the forum on Thursday afternoon, a day after Beijing and Tokyo exchanged barbs over a separate territorial dispute in the East China Sea.

Outlining US interests in the South China Sea as "freedom of navigation... peace and stability", Clinton pledged to expand on her comments later in the day, with several regional nations keen to galavanise support for the CoC.

The resource-rich South China Sea, home to vital shipping lanes, is the subject of overlapping claims by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and others, but is considered almost entirely Chinese by Beijing.

China said it is prepared to discuss a code to boost trust, but it wants to settle territorial disputes bilaterally - largely because it can bring its huge economic and military clout to bear in negotiations with small neighbours.

Clinton welcomed bilateral settlements "where possible" but warned strictly nation-to-nation talks on wider issues of sea passage and rights to resources could "be a recipe for confusion and even confrontation".

Read more on:    hillary clinton  |  china  |  vietnam  |  philippines
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