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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs