China under international pressure over islands dispute

China under international pressure over islands dispute

China under international pressure over islands dispute

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attends the 8th East Asia Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan. Beijing has been reluctant to discuss the sea dispute stemming from ownership of a group of islands. AFP photo

China came under heavy pressure Oct.10 as U.S. and Japan both geared up to take on the South China Sea dispute during summit rounds despite Beijing’s reluctance to address the issue in public forums.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will press China and Southeast Asian nations to discuss the South China Sea dispute at an Asian summit, a senior U.S. official said. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was also attending, said late on Oct. 9 that the South China Sea dispute was a matter of concern to the entire region. In pointed remarks, he said Tokyo would continue to cooperate with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in resolving the row, according to Reuters.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on the sidelines of an East Asia Summit in Brunei that such a code was needed, Agence France Presse reported.

“A code of conduct is a necessity for the long term, but nations can also reduce the risk of miscommunication and miscalculation by taking steps today,” Kerry said, according to a copy of his remarks to the summit.

Kerry did not single out any countries by name, but China has come under growing pressure over its claims to virtually all of the body of water, and acts interpreted by some of its neighbours as aggressive.

Kerry added “all claimants have a responsibility to clarify and align their claims with international law”.

US role

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, which itself is embroiled in a heated dispute with China over islands and waters between the two powers, told reporters he “looked forward to the early conclusion of a code of conduct which is legally binding.

“The sea should be ruled by law and not by force,” he added.

China has resisted discussing the territorial issue with the 10-member ASEAN, preferring to settle disputes in the South China Sea through negotiations with individual claimants. It has also frowned at what it sees as U.S. meddling in a regional issue.

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, overlapping with claims from Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam, the last four are members of ASEAN.

 The row is one of the region’s biggest flashpoints amid China’s military build-up and the U.S. strategic “pivot” back to Asia signaled by the Obama administration in 2011.

“The Chinese consistently indicate their view that ‘difficult issues’ that might fall outside the comfort zone of any member need not be discussed,” the U.S. official said.

“That is not a view that is held by the U.S., or, I believe, many if not most of the EAS member states, but we will find out,” the official added.

In a speech to ASEAN leaders reported by Kyodo news agency, Japan’s Abe came out squarely in favor of the Southeast Asian grouping.

Japan has its own territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea and Abe said there were “moves aimed at changing the status quo by force” in the South China Sea.