Biden: Reduce risk of error in sea row
Jose Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2013 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – A week after US President Barack Obama warned China against using force in its maritime disputes with its neighbors, his vice president Joe Biden told all parties involved to resolve their differences peacefully with “no intimidation, no coercion, no aggression.”

Speaking at a Center for American Progress forum here before leaving next week for economic and strategy discussions in India and Singapore, Biden said, “The Asia-Pacific was a region of remarkable promise but also genuine uncertainty and political risk. Many nations have experienced rapid economic transformation that has fundamentally created a new dynamic: rising ambitions and rising tensions.”

Referring to maritime disputes in the South China Sea, Biden said it was critical that all nations have a clear understanding of what constitutes acceptable international behavior.

“That means no intimidation, no coercion, no aggression and a commitment from all parties to reduce the risk of mistake and miscalculation,” he said in his speech on Thursday.

He said it was in everyone’s interest that there be freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, respect for international laws and norms, and a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes.

“That’s why I encourage China and ASEAN to work even more quickly to reach an agreement on a code of conduct in the South China Sea. Setting clear rules is the first step to managing these disputes. And the US has a strong interest in seeing that happen as well,” he said.

“We want to help lead in creating the 21st century rules of the road that will benefit not only the United States, and the region, but the world as a whole,” he added.

China claims sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel island groups and other land formations within its “nine-dash line” boundary in the South China Sea, claims disputed in whole or in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

As the United States expands its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, Biden called its long-standing alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand the cornerstones of the strategy.

“Across the board, with these alliances, we are at a high-water mark in terms of cooperation between our leaders, both military and political, and the support of our people,” he said.

He emphasized America’s Asia pivot does not mean it is losing its focus on Europe. “Europe remains the cornerstone of our engagement with the rest of the world. That is a fact. We are not going anywhere,” he said.

As a matter of fact, he continued: “We are absolutely convinced that our engagement in the Pacific is in the overwhelming self-interest of Europe. Europe, just like the United States, will benefit greatly as well from stability in the Pacific.”


Peace, cooperation sought

Meanwhile, a Chinese foreign ministry official has ignored calls to define the core issue of the dispute in the South China Sea.

In a report of the state-owned news agency Xinhua, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said on Friday in his remarks at the Second Workshop on Cooperation and Development in the South China Sea that China will continue its efforts to promote peace, cooperation, stability and development in the South China Sea region. – With Pia Lee-Brago

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