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China, U.S. need to manage differences over South China Sea: experts

(Xinhua)    18:16, July 06, 2016

WASHINGTON, July 5 -- China and the United Statesneed to manage their differences over the South China Seaissue, as they are bracing for an arbitral court's ruling, experts said Tuesday.

One week ahead of the July 12 ruling over the South China Sea case initialed by the Philippines, a group of former Chinese and American officials and experts on international law and foreign relations held a dialogue in Washington to discuss the ruling's legality, possible reactions and its implications on the China-U.S. relations.

In a keynote speech at the dialogue held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Dai Bingguo, former Chinese state councilor in charge of foreign affairs, reiterated that China will not accept the ruling because the tribunal under the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no jurisdiction over the case.

Noting the rising tensions in the South China Sea as the United States steps up its pressure on China to abide by the ruling, Dai issued a call for cooling down the issue, warning otherwise it could lead to unexpected accidents and even chaos in the region and Asia.

At the same time, Dai bluntly warned any party against trying to enforce the court ruling or force China into its implementation. Particularly, the Philippines should be dissuaded from making further provocations.

Dai also urged China and the United States to manage their differences constructively, demanding Washington scale back its "heavy-handed intervention" in the South China Sea issue.

He reaffirmed that, despite all the negative factors, China remains committed to peaceful settlement of the South China Sea disputes with concerned parties through negotiations.


Most experts attending the dialogue praised Dai's speech for clarifying China's position ahead of the court ruling, while echoing Dai's call for cooling down the temperature of the South China Sea for the sake of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.

The speech "certainly reinforces a very clear position that China has taken on the issue for a while, (and) there is a continued offer for cooperation," said Rodger Baker, vice president of strategic analysis at the Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence firm.

Douglas Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a U.S. think tank, said it "is the time for diplomats and politicians to exercise cool judgment and try to find ways to keep the issue from exploding into something more dangerous."

Paal told reporters that both China and the United States can do a lot more to cool things down and related parties in the dispute can "find ways to manage the arbitration award, and to keep it from becoming a source of additional tensions and conflicts."

Stapleton Roy, former U.S. Ambassador to China and a senior fellow at the Wilson Center, told reporters that Dai gave a "very detailed and comprehensive statement of China's view on the issues in the South China Sea."

He agreed with Dai's call for cooling down the situation, noting it's important to resolve territorial issues peacefully through negotiations instead of threats or use of force.

"China and the U.S. should work collaboratively on this issue. I think that's very important point also," Roy commented on Dai's remarks.

Brendan Mulvaney, associate chair of the Languages and Cultures Department of the U.S. Naval Academy, told Xinhua that he did not expect the U.S. reaction to the court ruling to be very aggressive because it is not a claimant to the territorial dispute.

At the same time, he expected China and the United States not to take "any super aggressive steps" to worsen the situation.


On how to cool down the situation, Huang Renwei, vice president of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the United States should take the lead because it is the most powerful nation in the region.

Then the Philippines should refrain from taking any actions after the court ruling next week, otherwise it will surely trigger off counter moves, Huang told Xinhua.

At the same time, other outside parties such as Japanand Australia should avoid stepping into the troubled waters in the South China Sea, he proposed.

Huang said China will not be the sole party that will endure loss if anyone tries to forcibly enforce the court ruling, as all related parties will have to pay a price.

Zhu Feng, director of the China Center for Collaborative Studies of the South China Sea at Nanjing University, told reporters that one of the major factors behind the rising tensions in the South China Sea is overreaction from the relevant parties, especially from the United States.

Zhu said it is impossible to enforce the upcoming arbitration ruling on the South China Sea case either by the United States or the Philippines.

He added that the core issue in cooling down the tensions is to conduct a serious review of the differences between China and the United States and try to find practical ways to narrow the gap.

Baker believed that the immediate reaction to the court ruling from the United States could be talking immediately with the Philippines on the next step for Manila to take.

He proposed the related parties first change the tone of the discussion right now in order to lower the tensions.

He noted some cooperation between China and the United States despite their differences. For example, China's Navy was invited to this year's multi-national RIMPAC naval exercises, a move that could lower the tensions by creating a set of understandings at the lower level.


The experts said the South China Sea issue is only part of the broader relationship, so the two sides should manage their differences through talks to prevent it from leading to strategic rivalry or confrontation.

"I think one of the most important things would be sit down and have discussions about how we're going to manage conflicts, specifically, on intended or unplanned conflicts," Mulvaney said.

He believed that the two powers will not just focus on the single issue of the South China Sea, because "it's not one of our central focus points."

Huang said one of the major mistakes made by the United States is siding with its allies no matter what they do, while criticizing China for whatever it does.

"I often tell the Americans, if you keep taking a biased position, the U.S. leadership will naturally be weakened," Huang said.

Zhu said the two countries should find a way of compromise and cooperation on the South China Sea issue from a long-term perspective, because neither side wants to turn the region into a battlefield.

"A military confrontation will benefit neither side, as it will be a disaster to the regional and global economy," he said.

Huang said despite all the differences, Beijing and Washington do have a consensus, that is, neither wants an all-out confrontation in the West Pacific. This is evident in the progress being made in improving the military-to-military cooperation and crisis management mechanisms.

"The South China Sea issue is only part of the overall China-U.S. relationship, which should never be kidnapped by the dispute," he added.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Kong Defang,Bianji)

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