Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) warned the US yesterday not to internationalize the issue of the South China Sea, where Beijing’s territorial claims conflict with other nations.
“What outcome can there be if the issue is internationalized? This can only make matters worse and more difficult to solve,” Yang said in a statement posted on the foreign ministry Web site. “International practice shows that the best way to resolve these types of disputes are direct bilateral negotiations between the countries involved.”
His comments come two days after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Vietnam, said resolving disputes over the South China Sea was “pivotal” to regional stability.
“The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” she said at Asia’s largest security dialogue.
China and several ASEAN countries make competing territorial claims over the resource-rich area, which is also a major source of tension between Beijing and Washington.
The US has called for unfettered access to the area that China claims as its own, and accused Beijing of adopting an increasingly aggressive stance on the high seas.
Yang, who said yesterday that Clinton’s “seemingly fair” comments were actually an “attack” on China, pointed out that the South China Sea was currently a peaceful area.
He added ASEAN was not an appropriate forum to resolve the issue.
“China and some ASEAN nations have territorial and maritime rights disputes because we are neighbors. It’s not because these countries are ASEAN members that you can say that this is a dispute between China and ASEAN,” he said.
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