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Countries should not use force in S. China Sea disputes: Clinton

Publication Date : 04-09-2012


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says countries should not use coercion or force in territorial disputes, in a clear reference to China.


United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said countries should not use coercion or force in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, in a clear reference to China.

"The United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims over land features, but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively together to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and certainly without the use of force," she said.

She urged Asean and China to work on a code of conduct in these waters, noting that a united Asean is critical.

Her remarks, at a joint press conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, come in the wake of rising tensions in the South China Sea that have tested Asean's unity.

Clinton, who arrived in Jakarta yesterday evening and leaves for Beijing today, also said she would discuss the matter with Chinese leaders, and was hopeful there could be progress before November's East Asia Summit.

At their foreign ministers' meeting in Phnom Penh in July, Asean countries failed to issue a joint communique for the first time, which some blamed on China's influence on Asean chair Cambodia.

The situation has been tense since. China established a city - Sansha - on a disputed island and formed a military garrison there.

However, shuttle diplomacy by Marty saw the grouping reach a common position - that included no resort to force - on resolving these disputes, a week after the Phnom Penh debacle.

"That show of unity was very important," Clinton said, thanking Indonesia for its leadership role. "We believe that it is critical for the work that has begun on the code of conduct to continue," she added.

But Marty stressed: "Asean unity is not meant at the expense of other parties... not to put any other country on the spot."

He noted that just last month, he hosted Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in the same room.

Said Marty yesterday: "Absent of a code of conduct, we can be certain of more incidents and more tensions for the region."

Clinton will call on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan this morning, before leaving for Beijing on the next leg of her regional tour.

She then heads for Timor- Leste and Brunei before a final stop in Vladivostok for the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' meeting.


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