Beijing and Washington soften tone on South China Sea dispute
BEIJING - Agence France-Presse
Hillary Clinton (L) meets with Chinese Vice-Premier Li in Beijing. China tells Clinton that it would work on a code of conduct for managing S China Sea disputes. REUTERS photoChina promised yesterday to ensure freedom of navigation in the tense South China Sea and told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton it was willing to work on a code of conduct to manage disputes.
After weeks of escalating tensions in the strategic sea and a war of words between Washington and Beijing, the Pacific powers toned down the rhetoric and pledged cooperation as Clinton met with most of China’s top leadership. “Freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is assured,” China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a rare joint news conference with Clinton in Beijing.
The United States has rallied behind the Southeast Asian nations and sharply criticized Beijing’s recent establishment of a remote garrison in the South China Sea, through which half of the world’s cargo flows. Pointing to his recent tour of several Southeast Asian nations, Yang said that China agreed to “work towards an eventual adoption of a code of conduct” on the basis of consensus. Clinton has said that she wanted to see progress on the code in time for the summit after talks in July by Southeast Asian foreign ministers failed to make headway.
Clinton said it was “in everyone’s interest” for China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to seek a code of conduct. She denied charges that the growing U.S. military and political focus on Asia was aimed at containing China, saying that President Barack Obama’s administration did not want “unhealthy competition.”