US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Washington wanted to avoid “confrontation” in the disputed South China Sea and help resolve the issue peacefully.
Kerry made the remarks in Manila, the Philippines, on Wednesday after meeting his Philippine counterpart Perfecto Yasay.
The top dipomats discussed Manila’s sweeping victory in the arbitration case against China earlier this month, when a tribunal in The Hague dismissed as illegal Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea that channels more than $5 trillion in global trade each year.
However, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) refused on Monday to fulfill a demand by the Philippines to mention the ruling in their final statement.
Kerry said that the US wanted Beijing and Manila to engage in talks and “confidence-building measures.”
“The decision itself is a binding decision but we’re not trying to create a confrontation. We are trying to create a solution mindful of the rights of people established under the law,” he added.
“We hope to see a process that will narrow the geographic scope of the maritime disputes, set standards for behavior in contested areas, lead to mutually acceptable solutions, perhaps even a series of confidence-building steps,” he said.
Beijing claims almost all of the South China Sea, which is also claimed in part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. The contested waters are rich in oil and gas.
The sea has been a source of tension between China, the US, and some other regional countries, which seek control of trade routes and mineral deposits there.
In this March 30, 2016 US Navy handout photo, the guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence transits the Philippine Sea. (AFP photo)
On Tuesday, the chief of US Naval operations, Adm. Mark Richardson, said the US Navy would continue its operations in the South China Sea.
The Obama administration has made it “absolutely clear” to China that the US will continue engaging in flights and naval activities in the disputed waters in spite of Beijing’s objections, Richardson said.