07/22/2011, 00.00
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Beijing tells US to respect China’s “territorial integrity”

US Secretary Clinton urges China to work with ASEAN member states to develop a code of conduct for the South China Sea. However, China does not want outsiders to intervene in an area it sees as part of its sphere of influence.
Bali (AsiaNews/Agencies) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Bali (Indonesia) for the annual meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said, “I want to commend China and ASEAN for working so closely together to include implementation guidelines for the declaration of conduct in the South China Sea.” In response, the United States should respect Chinese “territorial integrity”, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (pictured) said. In fact, in a bilateral meeting, “The Chinese side raised its own concerns, which is that it is important to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weiming said.

Shipping in the South China Sea as well as the disputed sovereignty (by China, Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan) of oil and gas rich Spratly and Paracel Islands are dominating ASEAN talks. Beijing refuses to accept international arbitration in the matter.

ASEAN member states have called again for a code of conduct. However, the recently agreed to guidelines are very vague and inadequate to solve problems. All the parties agree that it will still take many more years before a code can be reached.

Indonesian Foreign Minister and summit chairman Marty Natalegawa said he was dissatisfied with the outcome, noting that the situation was getting worse by the year.

ASEAN has so far failed to decide. This favours Beijing, which prefers to deal with the matter on a bilateral basis. In the last few weeks, Chinese navy ships have stopped Vietnamese and Filipino fishing boats, threatening and beating their crews.

Yang praised the idea of a code of conduct, saying “it will go a long way [to help] peace and stability in this region”.

Similarly, “It's an important first step. It has lowered the tensions, improved atmospherics,” US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell said. “But clearly it's just that: a first step and we're going to need to see follow-on interactions between China and ASEAN.”

Analysts note that Clinton’s appeal reiterates Washington’s desire to play a role in solving the problem.

Now Clinton is set to make a speech on Saturday in which she would emphasise that the United States had a “strategic stake” in the South China Sea.

Conversely, for China, the issue involves only China and its neighbours.
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