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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid