US says dispute a global problem
The United States yesterday condemned acts of "intimidation" in the South China Sea and called for greater international attention to resolve maritime disputes that threaten trade.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a deal between China and Southeast Asian nations on guidelines for future negotiations over the South China Sea was just a "first step" towards a binding code of conduct.
"We think it was an important first step but only a first step in adopting the declaration of conduct," Clinton told reporters in Indonesia after attending Asia's main security forum.
More detailed negotiations are needed to unpick a tangle of maritime stakes in the South China Sea, which China claims in its entirety despite rival assertions by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, Clinton said.
"There needs to be a lot of dialogue between (Southeast Asian nations) and China... and the rest of the world needs to weigh in because all of us have a stake in ensuring that these disputes don't get out of control," she said.
Clinton noted the South China Sea carried about half of global trade and said the international community should be more involved in settling disputes, an idea China has repeatedly rejected while "guaranteeing" free navigation.
She said all territorial claims should be clearly defined and resolved according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a position shared by most of the claimants except China, which bases its stake on historical maps.
At a meeting with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Wednesday in Bali, China agreed to a set of guidelines setting a framework for an eventual code of conduct for the sea.