‘Asia sea rows should be resolved by international law’

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today, that maritime rows should be settled by international law, remarks likely to rile China, which wants to handle them directly with its neighbours.

Updated: Oct 30, 2010, 16:11 PM IST

Hanoi: US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton said today, that maritime rows should be settled by
international law, remarks likely to rile China, which wants
to handle them directly with its neighbours.

Clinton waded into the dispute over South China Sea
and East China Sea islands as she took part in the 16-nation
East Asia Summit, which the United States is attending for the
first time along with Russia.

"The United States has a national interest in the
freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce," the
chief US diplomat said in a speech to the EAS, repeating a US
stand in the presence of China here in Vietnam`s capital.

"And when disputes arise over maritime territory, we
are committed to resolving them peacefully based on customary
international law," Clinton said.

But she also sounded a softer note, saying "with
regard to the South China Sea, we are encouraged by China`s
recent steps to enter discussions with ASEAN, about a more
formal binding code of conduct."

Diplomatic sources say that a working group from ASEAN
and China will meet in December, to prepare the groundwork and
establish technical details, on how a code of conduct could be
formulated.

The United States has said it is willing to help craft
the legally binding mechanism to end a dispute that threatens
regional stability.

However, diplomats say a major stumbling block to such
a mechanism is Beijing`s reluctance to deal with ASEAN
collectively on the issue.

Beijing instead wants the matter discussed bilaterally
with the group`s members which have territorial claims, a
forum where it has more clout, while ASEAN wants to speak as a
group.

China has warned the United States against making the
South China Sea dispute, an international issue and rejected
any form of interference from Washington.

To the north, a dispute still simmers between China
and Japan, after Tokyo on September 8 arrested a Chinese
trawler captain, near Japanese-administered islands, known as
Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

China was angered after Clinton, during talks in
Hawaii on Wednesday with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji
Maehara, said the islands fall under chapter five of the 1960
US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.

Under the treaty, the United States is obliged to
defend Japan, against any attack on a territory under Tokyo`s
administration.

PTI