China Stakes Out China Sea Position For US Talks

Posted June 22nd, 2011 at 6:15 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A senior Chinese official says he will deny Chinese responsibility for disputes in the South China Sea if the issue comes up during talks with the United States this week.

Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said the issue is not on the agenda for his talks on Saturday in Hawaii with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell. But he said if the American brings it up, he will explain that the disturbing trends in the area “are not caused by China.”

Cui made the remarks in an interview published Wednesday by Chinese news organizations. He said China hopes other countries will take a “restrained, responsible and constructive attitude” toward the disputes caused by overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Chinese media reported Tuesday that Cui will travel to Hawaii for the first round of consultations on Asia-Pacific affairs with the United States. It said the talks are a new consultation mechanism growing out of understandings reached during a visit to Washington in January by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Cui said the talks will deal with the two countries' respective policies on the region. By getting a better understanding of each others' intentions, he said, they will be better able to deal with regional challenges together.

Cui also said that since Mr. Hu's visit to Washington, relations between the countries have entered “a new phase” in which both are committed to building a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and benefit.

The United States declared during a period of more strained relations with China last year that it has a national interest in maintaining free navigation through the South China Sea. The declaration infuriated China, which saw it as interference in its own sphere of influence.

More recently, both Vietnam and the Philippines have said they would welcome U.S. support in their disputes with China over the South China Sea. Both countries have protested activities by Chinese naval vessels in waters they claim as part of their exclusive economic zones.

China in both cases insisted it was acting legitimately in areas under its administration.