NAYPYIDAW: A US proposal for a freeze on provocative acts in the South China Sea got a cool response from China and some Southeast Asian nations yesterday, an apparent setback to Washington’s efforts to rein in China’s assertive actions.
To China’s annoyance, the United States is using a regional meeting in Myanmar this weekend to step up its engagement in the maritime tension by calling for a moratorium on actions such as China’s planting of a giant oil rig in Vietnamese waters in May.
Its ally the Philippines has also called for a freeze as part of a three-step plan to ease tension in the resource-rich sea, through which passes $5tr of trade a year.
US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, yesterday for the Asean Regional Forum, joining foreign ministers and other top diplomats from China, Russia, Japan, India, Australia, the European Union and Southeast Asia among others.
“The United States and Asean have a common responsibility to ensure the maritime security of critical sea, lands and ports,” Kerry said in opening comments.
“We need to work together to manage tensions in the South China Sea and to manage them peacefully, and also to manage them on the basis of international law.”
But Le Luong Minh, secretary-general of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), said the US proposal was not discussed by Asean ministers because there was already a mechanism in place to curtail sensitive action such as land reclamation and building on disputed islands.