Settle sea row peacefully, US urges parties
Jose Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - April 28, 2016 - 10:00am

WASHINGTON – All the countries with conflicting claims to the South China Sea are entitled to equal rights irrespective of their size or strength and these claims should be decided on legal merits, US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said.

Testifying on US-China relations before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Blinken called on all parties in the South China Sea – not just China – to resolve their disputes in a peaceful manner and with adherence to international law and standards.

He said the US is opposed to the use or threat of force to advance maritime or territorial claims.

“Our approach to China seeks to broaden and deepen practical cooperation on issues of shared concern, directly resolve or narrow our differences wherever we can and manage those differences peaceably where we cannot,” said Blinken, who recently returned from his sixth visit to the Asia-Pacific in a little over a year.

He said there is growing regional concern about China’s activities in the South China Sea and consensus around the need to lower tensions.

Six countries – China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan – have competing claims to parts of the South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.     

“China has heard this international chorus and they don’t like it,” he said.

“They know their actions are placing them at odds with the aspirations of the region, strengthening our alliances and pushing others in the region to deepen security ties with the United States,” he said.

Blinken said the US has more to fear from a weak and insecure China than from a confident and capable China, adding “we want China as our partner in many endeavors and believe our nations and the world would undeniably be better for it.

“But in the end, only China can choose to assume that role and demonstrate the commitment to international law and standards necessary to achieve it,” he said.

In Beijing, Chinese defense ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian said China would send missile destroyer Lanzhou, staff officers and a dozen special forces troops to a multi-national maritime security and counterterrorism exercise in Singapore and Brunei and in nearby waters of the South China Sea from May 2 to 12.

The exercise will feature the militaries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with those of the US, India and six other dialogue partners.        – With AP

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