U.S. call for South China Sea 'freeze' gets cool response from China

NAYPYIDAW Sat Aug 9, 2014 1:46pm EDT

1 of 3. Foreign ministers join hands for a photo during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gala dinner at the Myanmar International Convention Center (MICC) in Naypyidaw on August 9, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Nicolas Asfouri/Pool

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NAYPYIDAW (Reuters) - A U.S. proposal for a freeze on provocative acts in the South China Sea got a cool response from China and some Southeast Asian nations on Saturday, an apparent setback to Washington's efforts to rein in China's assertive actions.

To China's annoyance, the United States is using a regional meeting in Myanmar this weekend to step up its engagement in the maritime tension by calling for a moratorium on actions such as China's planting of a giant oil rig in Vietnamese waters in May.

Its ally the Philippines has also called for a freeze as part of a three-step plan to ease tension in the resource-rich sea, through which passes $5 trillion of trade a year.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Myanmar's capital, Naypyidaw, on Saturday for the ASEAN Regional Forum, joining foreign ministers and other top diplomats from China, Russia, Japan, India, Australia, the European Union and Southeast Asia among others.

"The United States and ASEAN have a common responsibility to ensure the maritime security of critical sea, lands and ports," Kerry said in opening comments.

"We need to work together to manage tensions in the South China Sea and to manage them peacefully, and also to manage them on the basis of international law.”

But Le Luong Minh, secretary-general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the U.S. proposal was not discussed by ASEAN ministers because there was already a mechanism in place to curtail sensitive action such as land reclamation and building on disputed islands.

CHINA SAYS SITUATION STABLE

The top ASEAN diplomat said it was up to ASEAN to work with China to reduce tension by improving compliance with a 2002 agreement, as they also work to conclude a binding Code of Conduct for maritime actions. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also lay claim to parts of the sea.

"It is up to ASEAN to encourage China to achieve a serious and effective implementation of this commitment, rather than ASEAN asking whether it should support or not support the (U.S.) proposal," he said.

Most claimants have flouted the 2002 guidelines, leading to rising tension in the South China Sea between four ASEAN claimant nations and China, which claims 90 percent of the waters. The rancour has split ASEAN, with several states including some of the claimants reluctant to antagonize Asia's economic giant.

China rejects U.S. involvement in the dispute and has already dismissed the proposal for a freeze. China accuses the United States of emboldening claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam with its military "pivot" back to Asia.

"Currently the situation in the South China Sea is stable on the whole. There has not been any problem regarding navigation in the South China Sea," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters.

"Someone has been exaggerating or playing up the so-called tensions in the South China Sea. We don’t agree with such a practice."

Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario also appeared to tone down his proposal for a freeze or moratorium on activities causing tension in the South China Sea, calling instead for a "cessation" in remarks to reporters on Friday.

A senior U.S. official said the change in language was not significant. "Maybe they just want to differentiate their proposal from our proposal."

ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

(Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Robert Birsel)

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Comments (28)
NPeril wrote:
“Keep your broken arm inside your sleeve.” (Chinese Proverb: Quotation Page 2014)

All that the US State Department can do now is to present good theater and hope, upon exit, for a sincere applause.

Aug 09, 2014 7:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
veethevee wrote:
Wherever US military shifts to, there is in-explainable tension if not war. dont blame that on anybody. the world gets it. you have to have influence so that you can sell your aircrafts, weapons, Hotel services, and other shits. Say no to Wars that are being created by the Pentagon.

Aug 09, 2014 8:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
aunticcp wrote:
The only relations that the rest of the World should be having with the cruel CCP is trying to bring to trial the thousands of Communist Party members who have been and are still committing millions of human rights atrocities.The brutal Chinese Communist Party has murdered over fifty million of its own people since 1949, since 1999 it has been attempting the blood-thirsty genocide of the tens of millions of innocent Falun Gong who live in Mainland China. To this end, the heinous CCP is using torture,slavery, organ harvesting and murder. Because of corporate greed, these atrocities and millions of others have been kept from the Western people by the Western media. The weak United Nations even appointed the brutal CCP a seat on its Human Rights Council this year. Shameful. Thank you for your concern.

Aug 09, 2014 8:56am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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