US, China square off over South China Sea
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - The Associated Press
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at a press conference during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. AP photoThe Obama administration pressed Beijing on Thursday to accept a code of conduct for resolving territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea, a difficult U.S. mediation effort that has faced resistance from the communist government - although it has endeared the U.S. to once-hostile countries in Southeast Asia.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ annual conference.
Clinton stressed the different ways Washington and Beijing are cooperating. Yang spoke of building an even closer U.S.-Chinese relationship.
Several Asian governments have expressed worry about China’s expansive maritime claims. Tensions have threatened to boil over in recent months, with a standoff between Chinese and Philippine ships and sharp disagreements between China and Vietnam.
China claims virtually the entire area and has created an entirely new city to administer it, sparking deep concern from rival claimants. The sea hosts about a third of the world’s cargo traffic, has rich fishing grounds and is believed to store vast oil and gas reserves.
“We do have an interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea,” Clinton told foreign ministers gathered in Cambodia’s capital. Clinton said the tensions “underscore the need for agreement among all parties on rules of the road and the establishment of clear procedures for addressing disagreements.”
A senior administration official said Yang, in his discussion with Clinton, cautiously signaled China’s willingness to negotiate with other Asian nations on the code. The talks could start as early as September, said the official.