Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

US needs neutral policy on sea disputes

By Jin Yongming (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-11 08:01

During her first visit to China over the weekend, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice said President Barack Obama views his scheduled visit to China in November as a milestone because he attaches great importance to Sino-US relations.

Although Obama's visit is still two months away, observers believe that the instability in the South China Sea owing to the "pivot to Asia" policy of the US will be high on the agenda of the Sino-US talks.

Beijing's stance has been reiterated by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said on Sept 7 that China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are fully capable of maintaining peace and stability, as well as ensuring freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. He also expressed understanding of reasonable concerns from non-regional countries and hoped them to play a constructive role in resolving the South China Sea issue.

If Washington understands the essence of such messages, it will help develop better Sino-US relations. In July, US Senate passed Resolution 421 on sovereign disputes in the Asia-Pacific region, asking China to close its oil rig in and withdraw its convoy vessels from the waters off its Xisha Islands. The resolution also asked China to exercise restraint in using its Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs went further to say that parties to territorial disputes should not take any action to change the status quo - which includes reclamation near and constructions on or near disputed islands - to create favorable conditions for negotiations. The US has even proposed "three nos" for disputing parties: no scrambling for islands and outposts, no changing the landscape of the South China Sea and no taking unilateral action against other countries.

The "three nos" proposal, or "moratorium", on activities in the South China Sea is different from the earlier US policy on the issue and, worse, mainly targeted at China while ignoring the provocative actions of other countries, which are illegally exploiting the resources or occupying islands in disputed waters. Such double standard is obviously aimed at containing China's activities and, therefore, not conducive to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

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