US Calls for Calm Regarding South China Sea

Posted June 24th, 2011 at 5:50 pm (UTC-5)
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A top U.S. diplomat has appealed for restraint by all parties to the South China Sea territorial dispute.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said 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 about the South China Sea, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the U.S. will come to the aid of the Philippines if needed.

Campbell said the U.S. does not intend to “fan the flames” and has a strong interest in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

On Saturday, Campbell plans to hold talks in Hawaii with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, who has said countries challenging China's claim to the South China Sea islands and waters are “playing with fire.” Cui also said he hopes the U.S. will not be drawn into the controversy.

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 about 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.