Washington: The Obama administration has warned that a recent two-month maritime standoff between China and the Philippines has raised the risk of accidental war in the South China Sea, and called for countries in the region to urgently agree on a code of conduct.
China has resisted such a code as it jostles for ownership of resource-rich seabeds claimed by six south-east Asian nations.
But the top Asia policy official in the White House has said that the standoff between Beijing and Manila ‘threatened to escalate’ and created ‘scenario of grave concern to all countries in the region,’ the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
The paper quoted the National Security Council`s senior director for Asia, Danny Russell, as saying that ‘a code of conduct is a matter of commonsense.’
In a call implicitly aimed at China, Russell said ten years ago Beijing had agreed to negotiate such a code of conduct.
It has repeatedly said it will agree to discussions ‘when the time is ripe’, he added.
According to the paper, Russell pointed out that though the US and Australia would not be signatories to any code for countries bordering the South China Sea, they had a right as Pacific powers to ‘convey to the region the principles that are important to us’.
These included freedom of navigation and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
Meanwhile, China has accused the US of meddling in the region`s affairs by encouraging a code of conduct.
In response, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said that ‘America is a resident Pacific power.’