News / Asia

    US Says China, Not Washington, Responsible for South China Sea Tensions

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, foreground third left, poses for a group picture with foreign ministers before commencing the 4th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, foreground third left, poses for a group picture with foreign ministers before commencing the 4th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014.
    Victor Beattie

    The United States says it is trying to lower tensions in the South China Sea and accused China of "fomenting instability" by its "aggressive actions." Washington’s comments came amid Chinese criticism of a U.S. plan for a voluntary freeze on provocative actions in Beijing's maritime disputes with Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Monday said a final statement by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Myanmar, also known as Burma, was sufficient in addressing regional territorial disputes. That statement underscored the importance of “maintaining peace and stability in accordance with universally-recognized principles of international law,” and called for “the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties” and “the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.”

    Harf said Secretary of State John Kerry, who attended the ASEAN Regional Forum and suggested the voluntary freeze on provocations, said the United States made the points that needed to be made:

    “And, he said, you know, we weren’t seeking to pass something per se - trying to put something on the table that people could embrace.  So, you know, he also said that a number of countries have decided that’s what they’re going to do.  It’s a voluntary process.  But, he also said he thinks there’s a way to achieve some progress with respect to the South China Sea based on conversations they had at ASEAN.  It’s an ongoing conversation, but I think judging from his comments, he seems like we had made some progress,” said Harf.

    A senior Obama Administration official Saturday said the ASEAN statement is explicit in emphasizing the need for self-restraint, calling it “a significant shift” in the way ASEAN members are approaching their diplomacy with China. He said they are increasingly concerned about China’s “escalatory pattern of behavior.”

    On Monday, a commentary by Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency said Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who also attended the meeting, rebuffed the freeze proposal as potentially counterproductive.  Xinhua said Washington’s proposal only stokes the flames by emboldening countries like the Philippines and Vietnam to take a hardline stance against China. It also urged Washington not to make the South China Sea the latest place of "chaos" as a result of U.S. intervention, and referenced Iraq, Syria and Libya as previous examples. In response, Harf pointed out that the Chinese were the ones taking “aggressive” actions, not the U.S.

    “We’re not the ones that are fomenting instability there (South China Sea). It’s the aggressive actions the Chinese have taken that are doing so. Everything we are doing is designed to lower tension, to get people to resolve their differences diplomatically, and not through coercive or destabilizing measures, like we’ve seen Chinese take increasingly over the past several months,” said Harf.

    The United States has accused China of asserting itself militarily in territorial disputes with Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines in the South China Sea, and in a dispute with Japan over competing claims to a group of uninhabited islands northeast of Taiwan.

    A U.S. official traveling with Kerry said the United States will be monitoring the actual situation around the rocks, reefs and shoals of the South China Sea.

    Pavin Chachavalpangpun, an associate professor at Japan’s Kyoto University Center for Southeast Asian Studies, says the reality is that nothing has changed and China continues to pursue what he calls its “aggressive foreign policy” in the South China Sea.  He said China’s actions represent America’s declining influence in that part of the world.

    “What I’m trying to say is that, even though the US has come out firmly in regard to resolving South China Sea [disputes], we’ve seen ASEAN, in recent years, sliding into the warm, embracing arms of China to the point that, even as a regional organization, [it] has been reluctant to deal with this issue perhaps because of the interest between each individual ASEAN country with China in terms of its own political interest to the point that this interest has eclipsed regional interests,” said Pavin.

    He said that given the Chinese leadership’s commitment to exert its national interests, he sees little hope of reducing tensions, which could erupt into armed conflict. Pavin added that perhaps the only way to check China’s policy is to take the dispute to an international organization such as the United Nations.

    University of New South Wales professor emeritus Carl Thayer says the U.S. voluntary freeze proposal did not get consensus within ASEAN before it was publicly unveiled.  However, he describes China’s stated goal of 2015 being the year of China/ASEAN maritime cooperation is, in his words, turning black into white.

    “It’s just totally misrepresenting itself that there is no blame to be accorded to its (China’s) activities. All the provocations are coming from outsiders or from ill-intentioned countries inside ASEAN that are buoyed by US support and it’s just the opposite,” said Thayer.

    Thayer said China’s recent completion of geologic measurements involving a deep-sea oil rig off the Paracel Islands claimed by Vietnam is a current source of debate in Hanoi about whether it’s time to accommodate China diplomatically. 

    Meanwhile, he said maritime disputes between China and the Philippines remain a tense stalemate, where China has frustrated Philippine efforts to resupply its forces on Second Thomas Shoal, part of the disputed Spratly Islands. 

    And, he said, there is no halt to China’s reclamation efforts on other disputed islands in the South China Sea.

    You May Like

    US, Allies Discuss Next Steps in Islamic State Fight

    Meeting comes a day after US Navy SEAL was killed while fighting Islamic State forces in northern Iraq

    In China, Traditional Banks Fight Challenge From Internet Firms

    Internet companies lent more than $150 billion to customers in 2015, which is an extremely small amount compared to the much larger lending by commercial banks last year

    Trump Faces Tough Presidential Odds Against Clinton

    According to analysts, early indications are that Republican front-runner faces daunting contest against likely Democratic candidate, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora