Clinton Visit Reflects “Touchy Relationship”

Amid calls by visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for China to resolve its disputes on the South China Sea, VOA details an exchange between Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at a Wednesday news conference:

“China has sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters,” Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi told her bluntly. “There is plentiful historical and jurisprudential evidence for that.”

And as for competing claims to the islands and waters by the likes of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia Taiwan and others, Yang had this to say:

“As for the dispute over the sovereignty of some islands and reefs of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands and the overlapping rights, interests, and claims over some waters of the South China Sea, these should be discussed by the directly concerned countries on the basis of the fact – of historical fact and international law, and handled and settled through direct negotiations and friendly consultation.”

Although Clinton may not have made progress on two key issues on her agenda – tensions in the South China Sea and China’s role in the Syria conflict – The Washington Post reports that she said the talks were useful. A New York Times editorial on Wednesday called her visit “disappointing” but supported Clinton’s approach:

Still, Mrs. Clinton was right to press for common ground. Bounded by some of Asia’s most vibrant economies — China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia — the South China Sea has become a virtual free-for-all as nations assert claims to islands and even specks of rock. China has been the most aggressive, but other counties share blame. Confrontations over territorial control and undersea resources could easily get out of hand.

China should see the value in looking for ways to ensure regional stability. But it, too, has worries, particularly about the Obama administration’s more assertive presence in Asia, which includes strengthening military ties with Australia and the Philippines. That is one reason the United States must balance firmness toward China with a willingness to work together. China’s refusal to support tough U.N. Security Council sanctions against Mr. Assad is unconscionable. Chinese officials say they adhere to the principle of not interfering in the affairs of other countries, ignoring that their stubbornness has helped prolong the conflict in which more than 20,000 Syrians have been killed.

September 6, 2012 7:33 PM
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