UN to China: Resolve sea row peacefully

UN to China: Resolve sea row peacefully

BEIJING – United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday he has stressed to China the need for differences over the disputed South China Sea to be resolved peacefully.

Ban was speaking at a news conference in Beijing with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Tension has been rising ahead of a July 12 ruling by an arbitration court hearing the dispute between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea in the Dutch city of The Hague.

Ban said that while he could not comment on the Philippines’ legal case, he called for a peaceful resolution of differences.

“I did stress to Minister Wang, as I have with all other countries involved, the need to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner and to avoid any escalation or misunderstandings that could put security and development in the region at risk,” he said.

China says the court has no jurisdiction and it will neither participate in the case nor accept its decision.

Wang repeated China’s position that it also wanted a peaceful resolution, but that it would not accept forced arbitration.

“This approach will not help bring about a peaceful resolution of disputes. On the contrary, it would only escalate the disputes and tension and should be resisted by all countries and people who uphold justice.”

Last Wednesday, Wang told US Secretary of State John Kerry the United States should do nothing to harm China’s sovereignty and security in the South China Sea ahead of the court ruling on China’s claims in the disputed waterway.

Speaking by telephone on Wednesday, the Chinese foreign minister told Kerry the US should stick to its promises not to take sides in the dispute.

China hopes the US “speaks and acts cautiously, and take no actions that harm China’s sovereignty and security interests,” the statement paraphrased Wang as saying.

China is conducting military exercises around the Paracel Islands in the north of the region this week while US Navy officials said yesterday US destroyers had been patrolling around Chinese-held reefs and islands in the contested Spratly Islands to the south.

China frequently blames the US for stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

China has accused the US of militarizing the waterway with freedom of navigation patrols, while Washington has expressed concern about China’s building of military facilities on islands it controls in the South China Sea.

US officials say the US response should China stick to its vow to ignore the ruling could include stepped up freedom-of-navigation patrols close to Chinese claimed islands in what is one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

In the call initiated by Kerry, Wang also said relations between China and the US were generally on a sound track and that the two sides should further focus on cooperation while managing their differences.

The US State Department confirmed that Kerry had spoken to Wang, without providing details.

US officials say they fear China may respond to the ruling by declaring an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, as it did in the East China Sea in 2013, or by stepping up its building and fortification of artificial islands. – Reuters