Thursday, August 30, 2012

US warns China, neighbors vs use of force

In Washington, officials said on Tuesday that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would warn against the use of force between China and its neighbors on a tour of Asia amid mounting tension over sea disputes.

On her third visit to Asia since May, Clinton will become the first US secretary of state to take part in a summit of South Pacific islands—an area where China’s influence has been growing—and to stop in East Timor.

Clinton will hold talks in Beijing on September 4 and 5, the United States and China announced. Friction has been rising both in the West Philippine Sea, where Beijing is building a controversial garrison, and in the East China Sea, where activists have sailed to islands claimed by both Japan and China.

“We don’t want to see the disputes in the South China Sea, or anywhere else, settled by intimidation, by force. We want to see them settled at the negotiating table,” said US state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland.

Military transparency

Nuland called for military transparency by China and said Clinton would seek progress on an elusive goal of setting up a code of conduct to manage conflicts in the West Philippine Sea.

“We continue to think that that’s the best way to address these disputes, so I think you will see it come up on many of these stops,” Nuland said, referring to the proposed code of conduct.

On Clinton’s last visit to Asia in July, Southeast Asian nations meeting in Cambodia failed to overcome divisions to move ahead on a code of conduct, with the Philippines and Vietnam seeking the toughest line over disputes with China.

In between her talks in Beijing, Clinton will stop in Indonesia and Brunei, two countries that Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi toured earlier in August.

US President Barack Obama’s administration on taking office eyed Indonesia as a growing US partner due to its size, democratic values and mostly moderate practice of Islam, although the momentum for stronger ties has since slowed down.

Nuland said that Clinton would also seek a peaceful resolution of disputes involving Japan, whose relations with China and South Korea have rapidly deteriorated in recent weeks.

First US official in E. Timor

Clinton will leave on Thursday for the tiny Cook Islands to take part in the Pacific Islands Forum, leading the highest-level US delegation ever to go to the 41-year-old summit.

China has devoted growing attention to the South Pacific, offering assistance with few strings attached in contrast to the region’s traditional donors Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the United States.

Clinton, already the most-traveled secretary of state in US history, will, on September 6, become the most senior US official ever to visit East Timor, an impoverished half-island nation that became independent from Indonesia in 2002.

The top US diplomat will end her tour by taking part in the September 8-9 Apec summit in Vladivostok.

She will represent the United States instead of President Obama, who has told Russia that he will skip the summit to focus on the home stretch of his reelection bid.-Philippine Daily Inquirer (August 30, 2012 3:32AM)

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