Jakarta: Southeast Asian states must present a united front to the Chinese in dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea to "literally calm the waters," US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said here Tuesday.
She urged all involved to make "meaningful progress" on a process for ending conflicts "without coercion, without intimidation and certainly without the use of force" by November.
In Indonesia`s capital before heading to China, Clinton offered strong U.S. Support for a regionally endorsed six-point plan to ease rising tensions by implementing a code of conduct for all claimants to disputed islands.
Jakarta is the headquarters of the Association of South East Asian Nations, and Clinton pressed the group to insist that China agree to a formal multilateral mechanism to reduce short-term risks of conflict and ultimately come to final settlements over sovereignty.
The stance puts the US Squarely at odds with China, which has become increasingly assertive in pressing its territorial claims with its smaller neighbors and wants the disputes to be resolved individually with each country, giving it greater leverage than dealing with a bloc.
Clinton made the case in today`s meetings with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and ASEAN secretary general Surin Pitsuwan, a day after she delivered the same message to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.
"The United States has a national interest, as every country does, in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea," Clinton told reporters at a news conference with Natalegawa.
"The United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims, but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation and certainly without the use of force," she said.