Sat, Aug 18, 2012 - Page 3 News List

US Congress may debate Asian seas

CHOPPY WATERS:The political process is to call for the protection of navigation rights in disputed eastern Asian waters, amid growing US concern over China’s ambitions

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

A new bill reaffirming “strong support” for the peaceful resolution of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait was introduced to the US Congress earlier this month. It calls on US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to continue efforts to solve the disputes peacefully.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and may be taken up when Congress returns from its summer recess in September.

Co-sponsored by the non-voting Delegate from American Samoa Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat, the bill is cosponsored by Florida Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

“China continues to coerce and intimidate its neighbors and I have grave concerns about China’s expansive territorial claims, which have no basis in international law,” Faleomavaega said.

He has called on China to work “collaboratively and diplomatically” to resolve disputes without coercion, threat or intimidation and above all “without the use of force.” The bill says that the South China Sea contains vital commercial shipping lanes and provides a “maritime lifeline” to Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.

“The US has a national economic and security interest in maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in East Asia and ensuring that no party threatens or uses force unilaterally to assert maritime territorial claims,” the bill says. It goes on to condemn the use of force by naval, maritime security and fishing vessels from China

“Overt threats and gunboat diplomacy are not constructive means for settling these outstanding disputes,” the bill says. It supports diplomatic efforts by Taiwan, Japan and South Korea — along with ASEAN — to “amiably and fairly” resolve disputes.

The bill calls on the administration of President Barack Obama to continue operations by US armed forces in support of ensuring freedom of navigation rights in international waters as well as air space in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the Yellow Sea.

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