US Calls for Calm Over South China Sea

Posted June 24th, 2011 at 2:40 pm (UTC-5)
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A top U.S. official says Washington wants nothing more than peace and stability for the hotly contested South China Sea.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told reporters Friday the U.S. does not take a stand on the sovereignty of the sea, claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The three countries have been arguing over the South China Sea, and on Thursday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. would come to the aid of the Philippines if needed.

Campbell said the U.S. did not intend to “fan the flames” and wants recent tensions to subside.

China and Taiwan claim the entire South China Sea, based largely on a centuries-old map. The longtime disputes become more important because of accelerating exploration for oil and gas under the sea floor.

Secretary of State Clinton has said recent incidents in the South China Sea could undermine regional peace and stability. She also said she opposes the threat of force to advance the claims of either party, but Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said Thursday his country is ready to stand up to “aggressive actions” in the region.

The Philippines has been particularly concerned over Chinese naval exercises near the disputed Spratly Islands.

The U.S. and Philippine navies are scheduled to conduct 11 days of training and exercises in the Philippines off the coast of Palawan, which faces the South China Sea.

Those exercises are set to begin Tuesday.

The U.S. and Vietnam are also set to conduct military exercises, including mock search and rescue missions, next month. A U.S. Navy spokesman says the war games were scheduled a while ago and are not a response to recent tensions .