Is it to "grope for fish" by stirring "muddy" South China Sea?

15:21, July 28, 2010      

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At the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian nations) Regional Forum held in Vietnam on July 23, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked at length based on the draft she had prepared beforehand. Hillary said resolving disputes over the South China Seas was "pivotal" to regional stability, and she also called for setting up an international mechanism to resolve the issue.

"The United States has a 'national interest' in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea," Hillary Clinton said at Asia's largest security dialogue.

Moreover, Mrs. Clinton noted, the United States supports all those countries that had claimed sovereignty over the South China Sea in expanding cooperation and consultations and her nation is in opposition to the use of any force and to the threat to use force.

At first glance, Hillary's remarks seem to be "ready to come to the rescue of people in distress," to maintain fairness and to speak out from a sense of justice. If mulling it over or thinking of it carefully, however, one can have another taste. Why has the United States interested itself so abruptly in the South China Sea Issue in the first place? And Hillary's reasoning is that the dispute has hindered the freedom of navigation and negatively affects regional stability.

As a matter of course, the South China Sea issue has long been in existence over the past decades, and people have never heard that the peace cruise on international waters in the region has ever been obstructed. Till today, no other country has ever said their trade navigation or shipping has ever experienced any hindrance at this sea area.

The discerning people can see some economies in the region develop very fast and seaborne trade progress day by day in recent years. As for regional stability, all people say that there is no threat whatsoever to regional peace and stability in viewing or appraising China's bilateral talks with the ASEAN nations and other countries in the region.

Concerning ways for the settlement of disputes, Hillary's prescription is to conduct multilateral consultations and cooperation and establish an international mechanism for the settlement of disputes with the American involvement and leadership.

To put it bluntly, if you want to solve the problem, the participation and assistance of more countries are needed while the United States should act as the referee. Nevertheless, Hillary is somewhat forgetful: China and ASEAN member countries signed in 2002 the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and institutionalized the joint working group meeting for consultations. These actions are in fact promoting the mutual confidence of the relevant nations and creating advantage and a good atmosphere for the eventual settlement of disputes.

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