China Protests Australia's South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Comment

U.S. launches quiet diplomacy to ease South China Sea tensions

Published: Yesterday 10:48 pm U.S. launches quiet diplomacy to ease South China Sea tensions By Lesley Wroughton and John Walcott

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea but its claims are fiercely contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

An global tribunal ruled on Tuesday against China's claims that it had "historical rights" in the South China Sea.

Liu said China's sovereignty claims are unaffected by the ruling.

Military experts also said Beijing could step up its build-up of arms and troops if the United States takes "provocative" measures to challenge its presence, the South China Morning Post reported Wednesday.

"It creates a perception in Chinese eyes that US actions are not about upholding global law", Fravel says, "but in fact, a much broader geopolitical power, political agenda that the USA might have to contain China".

In the case brought by the Philippines against China over South China Sea disputes, the court said there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources on the islands in the South China Sea.

Vietnamese media on Wednesday quoted Tran Cong Truc, former head of the national border committee, urging China to prioritize peaceful negotiations based on global law in the South China Sea dispute.

China was quick to point out that the tribunal has no power to enforce its decision.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Zhenmin insisted that China's aim was "to turn the South China Sea into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation". Instead, the Chinese government appears to be taking its wrath out on neighboring Vietnam; shortly before the verdict was issued, Chinese ships sank a Vietnamese fishing boat in the South China Sea, leaving its crew to float on the remains of their boat for hours before allowing a Vietnamese rescue crew to pass.

"Whether we need to set up one in the South China Sea depends on the level of threat we receive", he said.

Beijing is also setting up defense installations in the area to support its claims over the disputed zone.

While blaming the previous Philippine government for complicating the dispute by seeking arbitration, Mr Liu also sought to strike a conciliatory note with the South East Asian nation's new leadership. If newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte leans toward a pro-Beijing line on the promise of economic assistance, it could undermine the bloc's unity.

Beijing claims almost all of the strategically vital South China Sea which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Several US administration officials said the US wants to "quiet things down so these issues can be addressed rationally instead of emotionally". It calls on all claimant states to rein in actions that could escalate tensions in the South China Sea, pending a permanent settlement to the maritime territorial dispute.

As such, it said there was "no legal basis" for China to claim historic rights to resources within its so-called nine-dash line demarcating its territorial claims.

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