The U.S. and other nations are deeply concerned about “aggressive” Chinese action in the South China Sea, Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday.
China and Vietnam have been engaged in a tense standoff since China positioned an oil rig in disputed waters May 1. Both sides have accused the other of ramming ships. Vietnam has presented a video showing Chinese ships hitting its vessels.
“We want to see a code of conduct created; we want to see this resolved peacefully through the Law of the Sea, through arbitration, through any other means, but not direct confrontation and aggressive action,” Kerry said before a meeting at the State Department with Singapore foreign minister K. Shanmugam.
The standoff close to the disputed Paracel Islands, which China seized from U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1974, has led to fears of a fully blown naval confrontation between the two nations, which have fought one land and two sea battles over the last 40 years.
Shanmugam echoed Kerry’s desire for Southeast Asian nations and China to agree on a code of conduct for the South China Sea ?an effort to help manage territorial disputes that involve China and five other claimants.
“We need a situation where parties resolve their disputes and their differences in a way that’s acceptable to all,” he said.
Vietnam has demanded that China pull back the rig. China has refused, saying the waters are its “inherent territory.” According to Vietnamese state media, a Vietnamese patrol boat and several Chinese vessels blasted each other with water cannons Monday.
The U.S. says it takes no stance on the sovereignty disputes, but has an interest in open commerce and navigation in the South China Sea, which is crisscrossed by busy shipping lanes.
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