US urges a code of conduct in the South China Sea

July 23rd, 2010 - 11:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Hanoi, July 23 (DPA) The US government Friday called on the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to reach agreement on a full code of conduct in the South China Sea to prevent conflicts.
“The United States supports a collaborative, diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving the various territorial disputes without coercion,” US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters after attending the ASEAN Regional Forum. “We encourage the parties to reach agreement on a full code of conduct.”

Delegates attending the forum, which includes the 10-member ASEAN, the European Union, the US, China, Russia, Japan and 12 other countries, on Friday discussed a long-running territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Many of the area’s more than 250 islands are claimed by more than one country, among them the Spratlys, with China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines each claiming either all or parts of the archipelago and the Paracel Islands, claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Clinton said 12 participants, including the US, raised the South China Sea and general maritime navigation and claim issues.

“The United States, like every nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” Clinton said.

“We share these interests with not only ASEAN members or ASEAN Regional Forum participants but with other maritime nations, and the broader international community.”

She called on claimants to pursue their territorial claims and accompanying rights to maritime space in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The US does not take sides on the competing territorial disputes over land features in the South China Sea, but opposed the use or threat of force by any claimant, she added.

The Philippines proposed to adopt a binding regional code of conduct in the South China Sea in August 1995, but there is sill no such code.

ASEAN and China signed a declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea in 2002, but experts say it is not sufficient to prevent conflicts.

Professor Carlyle Thayer of the Australian Defence Force Academy said Vietnam had been unable to persuade ASEAN to be more assertive and negotiate a code of conduct with China as a bloc as Beijing insists on bilateral talks.

The 10 ASEAN nations are Brunei, Myanmar, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Vietnam is the 2010 ASEAN chair. It hosted an ASEAN summit in April and will host a related summit in Hanoi in October.

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