US agrees: time to ‘turn the page’

Kerry says he will en­cour­age Manila to pur­sue ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bei­jing

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YUNBI in Vi­en­tiane, Laos, and WANG QINGYUN in Bei­jing

Washington agrees with Bei­jing that “the time has come” to move away from the ten­sions in the South China Sea and to “turn the page”, US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said, adding that he will en­cour­age the Philip­pines to pur­sue di­a­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tion with China in their dis­pute.

He made the com­ments to re­porters in Vi­en­tiane, the cap­i­tal of Laos, while re­call­ing his meet­ing with Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi on Mon­day.

Both Wang and Kerry at­tended a range of mul­ti­lat­eral meet­ings of the 10 mem­bers of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions from Sun­day to Tues­day.

Kerry told a news con­fer­ence on Tues­day that “we don’t take a po­si­tion, as I said ear­lier, on the claimants” in the South China Sea issue. He said the US “would like to see a process of di­a­logue” be­tween Bei­jing and Manila.

“I will be leav­ing to the Philip­pines this af­ter­noon, meet­ing with Pres­i­dent (Ro­drigo) Duterte to­mor­row, and I would en­cour­age Pres­i­dent Duterte to en­gage in di­a­logue and in ne­go­ti­a­tion,” he said.

The con­sen­sus be­tween Ker- ry and Wang sur­prised many ob­servers, since Washington has pub­licly pressed Bei­jing to ac­cept the re­cent rul­ing by the Ar­bi­tral Tri­bunal of The Hague in a case uni­lat­er­ally ini­ti­ated byManila in 2013.

Wang told China Daily on Tues­day night that the three­day meet­ings were a suc­cess, and “the biggest con­sen­sus be­tween China and A SEAN this year is to re­turn to the track of re­solv­ing dis­putes through di­a­logue and con­sul­ta­tion” af­ter the ar­bi­tra­tion rul­ing.

Wang said that sinceASEAN said dur­ing the meet­ings that it takes no po­si­tion as a whole on the ar­bi­tral rul­ing, the hyp­ing about the South China Sea did not re­solve the issue, but in­stead “of­fered ex­cuses to forces out­side the re­gion to im­pose in­ter­ven­tion”.

ChenQing hong, a re­searcher on South­east Asian and Philip­pine stud­ies at the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­search, wel­comed Washington’s milder tone. “The pos­si­bil­ity can­not be ruled out that Washington may re­quire Manila to make the rul­ing a con­di­tion for fu­ture talks with China, while this con­di­tion has been re­fused by Bei­jing,” Chen added.

Onthe side­lines of the­meet­ings, For­eign Min­is­ter Miroslav La­j­cak of Slo­vakia, which as­sumes the chair­man­ship of the Euro­pean Union this year, told China Daily that the EU be­lieves the South China issue should be solved “in a di­rect di­a­logue of par­ties af­fected”.

He said that “we are pleased by the joint com­mu­nique” achieved on Mon­day in the meet­ing be­tween ASEAN mem­ber states and China, which re­newed com­mit­ment to manag­ing the dis­putes.

“We be­lieve that this is a step in the right di­rec­tion, and we be­lieve that in this spirit, the progress will con­tinue in the fu­ture,” he added.

Zhou Fangyin, a pro­fes­sor of Chi­nese for­eign pol­icy at Guang­dong In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Strate­gies, said the meet­ings “set a tone” for ASEAN’s fu­ture South China Sea poli­cies, and ASEAN’s not tak­ing a po­si­tion on the ar­bi­tra­tion rul­ing “will be a re­straint forManila”.

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