South China Sea to Surface at East Asia Summit

Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin voiced Beijing’s desire to avoid any discussions over the South China Sea at this week’s East Asia Summit, despite the assertions of U.S. officials that the subject will come up during talks on maritime security. From The Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. hasn’t specifically said it wants the South China Sea on the formal agenda of the East Asia Summit: Diplomats say it has been anxious not to appear too assertive at the meeting as U.S. President Barack Obama is attending for the first time.

But Washington has been encouraging its allies, partners and other countries in the region to play a greater role in standing up to China’s more forceful diplomacy and protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, diplomats and regional experts say.

Administration officials have asserted in the days leading up to the summit that the U.S. will seek to play to play a bigger role in countering China’s claims in the South China Sea.

Hillary Clinton reiterated the issue’s importance during a stop today to reaffirm ties with Philippines, where rocky relations have recently emerged with China and where the government today urged its Southeast Asian neighbors to stand strong in their pursuit of a diplomatic solution to the dispute. From Reuters:

“ASEAN is now at a critical junction of playing a positive and meaningful role to contribute in the peaceful resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea,” said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

Manila wants ASEAN to be able to help resolve sensitive issues without letting them affect bilateral or multilateral relations, he said.

Smaller Southeast Asian claimants view a U.S. presence and a multilateral approach to negotiations as strengthening their stance against China’s all-encompassing claim on the sea.

Today’s BBC News China Morning Roundup points out a report in the Chinese language edition of the Global Times, in reaction to del Rosario’s comments, which accuses the Philippines of “grabbing resources from Chinese water.” See also recent CDT coverage of rising tensions on the South China Sea.

November 16, 2011 8:49 AM
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