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Clinton wades into South China Sea territorial dispute

The Obama administration is continuing to hand out cookies to its friends in Southeast Asia with an eye towards hedging against China's rise. On Friday, it was Vietnam's turn.

In Hanoi at a meeting on Asian security, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes over the South China Sea is in the "national interest" of the United States. She also lobbied for a multilateral solution to the question.

This was music to Vietnam's ears, as Hanoi has been seeking a multilateral diplomatic approach to this issue for years. China, on the other hand, was irked -- it claims most of the sea as its own territory and has demanded that all disputed claims be settled bilaterally.

Vietnam and the United States were not alone in confronting China on this issue. At least 10 other members at Asia's top security forum raised concerns about maritime security issues, including the sensitive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The U.S. stance on the resolution of the South China Sea dispute stands in clear contrast to China's position. While Beijing has yet to declare its version of the Monroe Doctrine in the resource rich area, Chinese maps show that Beijing claims vast portions of the sea, which stretches hundreds of miles south of China's southernmost province of Hainan to just off the coast of the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Clinton told meeting participants that the United States had "a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea" and expressed support for a "collaborative diplomatic process."

"We oppose the use or threat of force by any claimant," she said in prepared remarks for the forum. She later said the conversation was "very productive."

China's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, was not amused; Beijing opposed any effort to "internationalize" the issue.

This marks the second time in two days that the Obama administration has taken steps to bolster friends in the region with an eye to China's rise.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Robert Gates announced that the administration would end a 12-year ban on relations with Indonesia's elite special forces.

By John Pomfret  | July 23, 2010; 12:25 PM ET
 
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Comments

Ugh, so Afghanistan is going poorly, and since our military eventually has to withdraw from there, they have to go look for some other place to stick their fingers. Name me one example of where the U.S. has interfered in disputes between other nations where it hasn't just exacerbated the tensions and made things worse?
Clinton does not give a damn about the well-being of Vietnam. Now the country is finally recovering from all the atrocities of the Vietnam War and finally has some economic stability and growth, the U.S. returns to foment trouble. Looking to take advantage of someone else's old arguments in order to stick our foot in the door. Yes, and once again it's about oil.
Will the U.S. please quit looking for another war to fight? Those islands were never on the U.S. radar, so why are they now? Gee, where can I find a tension between countries that I can take advantage of so that I can go stick in my military?
If China's claim to those islands is a stretch, well, the U.S. claim to any interest there is even more of a stretch. Stay out of it, it's their regional dispute. If you want it resolved, then let the U.N. handle it.

Posted by: yihe94703 | July 23, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I totally second the opinion of yihe94703.

Posted by: Bud0 | July 23, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

There are highminded strategic perspective(s)- which we're good at. Then, there are the lowbrow realities of 'milking'- which the supposed recipient(s), of our largess, have perfected to an art. The recent juxtaposition of the two are clearly in play in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vietnam, are you learning?

Posted by: tteng | July 23, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

There she goes. She's doing it again. Meddling and coniving; stirring up ill feelings and promising more American tax payer money. Except it isn't tax payer money, its more borrowed money which we'll avoid paying back when America declares bankruptcy.

Posted by: jackburris1 | July 23, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

And it seems like China was actually doing Vietnam a favor by preventing BP from exploring for oil out there, given our current problems with BP.

Posted by: yihe94703 | July 23, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

As a Vietnamese, I welcome the US back to the region. We need peace and we need international laws to be respected! China shouldn't be able to do whatever they want!

FYI: those islands never appeared on the Chinese map until they was successful in seizing the Paracels islands from us in 1974.

If the Chinese has enough historical evidences, why don they deny multi-lateral talks? In fact, they don't have any valid documents at all, so they seek bi-lateral talks in order to use their power of economy and military to threaten others.

Posted by: Heavyrain2408 | July 24, 2010 6:22 AM | Report abuse

As a Vietnamese, I welcome the US back to the region. We need peace and we need international laws to be respected! China shouldn't be able to do whatever they want!

FYI: those islands never appeared on the Chinese map until they was successful in seizing the Paracels islands from us in 1974.

If the Chinese has enough historical evidences, why do they deny multi-lateral talks? In fact, they don't have any valid documents at all, so they seek bi-lateral talks in order to use their power of economy and military to threaten others.

Posted by: Heavyrain2408 | July 24, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

There is a cost to everything. If indeed America wishes to meddle with China's core interest, why would America expect China's cooperation and help in other issues? America's unending wars just become more unaffordable in terms of blood and treasure, that's all.

Who do you think will win when it is grand strategy that is at stake? The engineers of Beijing, or the clowns of the Beltway? Only time will tell. In the interim, a lot more will die.

What is poignant is that this month will see the last flight of the manned space flight for America. More trillions for war, including potentially WW III, but no money for space. That shows where the priorities are.

Posted by: zhuubaajie | July 24, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

U.S should be praised for their support for resolving disputes over the islands in China Sea,
not using force of course. The China Sea (as it is) called does not belong to China despite
they have claimed they have indisputable evidence. perhaps India should start claim to the
Indian Ocean.

Posted by: peace4theworld | July 25, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

At last! Obama learned that bowing to thugs only encourages them to take advantage of us, and decided to show a little backbone.

The Chinese thugs play rough, and by giving them a taste of their own medicine, the President gains leverage--leverage which could help force China to tell their puppet regime in North Korea to act like adults or tell Iran to dump their atomic project.

Posted by: webmaster12 | July 25, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

If one researches into the details about the island groups that are being disputed, you will be surprised a few of those islands were first claimed by an American.

But this has nothing to do with Mrs Clinton's speech. She is clearly concerned about the freedom of navigation in South China Sea. South China Sea is the 3rd largest shipping passage in the world after Panama and Suez Canal, it's an extremely vital international trade link so the one who dominates the islands, controls the water. China is stepping up its military in these waters.

U.S. role here is to balance a rising China and bring back the sphere of influence it once had in the past era in this region. (ASEAN being neighbors with a progressing China has things to be concerned about too) Most of the 10 ASEAN members, their largest trading partner is China. China wants a bilteral dialogue with the countries involved. Clinton is pushing for multilateral talks for China to engange ASEAN as a bloc rather than individual countries. U.S. military vessels also conducts exercises in these waters, it has a Visiting Force agreement with the Philippines. Southeast Asia is an emerging market region, right below China, so obviously this is of great interest. And in a smaller note U.S. could lose its base in Japan too, if it happens, they will look towards this region which had 2 bases operating until the 1990s.

Posted by: asean | July 26, 2010 2:59 AM | Report abuse

The countries that have claims are China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Singapore. The first 4 have bigger claims.

Posted by: asean | July 26, 2010 3:26 AM | Report abuse

What will solve the disputes over islands in the China Sea? International law or bilateral talk. China has been capturing
Vietnamese's boats and fishermen to demand
for money from their families.Is it bilateral talk?

Posted by: peace4theworld | July 26, 2010 3:54 AM | Report abuse

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