U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi pose for a photograph ahead of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 51st ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Singapore, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018.
AP/Joseph Nair
US: Third party concerns should be included in South China Sea code
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - August 8, 2018 - 12:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — While China and the Southeast Asian nations are moving forward with negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, the United States stressed its position on the maritime dispute.

Piper Campbell, chargé d’affaires ad interim at the US Mission to ASEAN, stressed that Washington has always been watching the developments in the disputed waterway.

"We think it’s extremely important that no country pressure other countries within structures like the Code of Conduct negotiations," Campbell said in a teleconference Tuesday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had the chance to relay Washington's position on the disputed South China during the recently concluded East Asia Summit and Asean Regional Forum meetings in Singapore.

In the meetings with ASEAN member states, China, Japan and Australia, the US top diplomat insisted that concerns of third parties should be incorporated in the COC.

In a draft code, Beijing suggested excluding non-regional countries, including the US, from proposed joint militarye exercises and energy exploration in with Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea.

Campbell said that Pompeo had the opportunity to express Washington's position that "any Code of Conduct needs to incorporate the concerns and the rights of third parties."

While the US is pleased that China and the ASEAN member states are moving forward with negotiations on the COC, Washington stressed the importance of adherence to internatioal law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as respecting other countries' right to freedom of navigation and overflight.

"We think it’s extremely important that no country pressure other countries within structures like the Code of Conduct negotiations," Campbell said.

"It’s important that all countries, regardless of their size, have the opportunity to represent their national interests as well as the very clear international principles including the principles that are enshrined in UNCLOS," she added.

The Philippine government, on the other hand, finds "nothing objectionable" in China's suggestion to exclude "outside countries" from proposed joint maritime drills in a bid to push back the United States.

"Of course, the United States is 10,000 miles away, so if the intention is to build stronger relations between military forces who are neighbors then the United States will really be out of place," presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said last week.

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