Kerry pledges neu­tral stance by the US

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - By WANGXU in Bei­jing wangxu@chi­nadaily.com.cn Xin­hua con­trib­uted to this story.

The United States’ top diplo­mat promised on Wed­nes­day that Wash­ing­ton will not take sides in South China Sea dis­putes and called for China and the Philip­pines to ex­er­cise re­straint and build con­fi­dence.

Ex­perts said the milder tone be­ing voiced by both Wash­ing­ton and Manila serves over­all in­ter­ests and is more con­ducive to re­gional sta­bil­ity, but Bei­jing should be cau­tious of fu­ture moves by the two coun­tries and of pos­si­ble tricks.

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said in Manila that Wash­ing­ton is not pick­ing sides on the com­pet­ing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.

He made the re­marks at a joint news con­fer­ence with Philip­pine For­eign Sec­re­tary Per­fecto Yasay, ahead of his meet­ing with new Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte.

Kerry, the high­est-rank­ing US of­fi­cial to visit the Philip­pines since Duterte took of­fice on June 20, em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of turn­ing the page on the dis­putes and ini­ti­at­ing talks among claimants.

He said there had been a con­sis­tent fo­cus by ev­ery­body, in­clud­ing the Chi­nese for­eign min­is­ter, dur­ing this week’s ASEAN For­eign Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing in Vi­en­tiane, Laos, on turn­ing the page on past con­fronta­tions.

Yasay told a sep­a­rate news con­fer­ence ear­lier in the day, “The le­gal ba­sis for us to move for­ward in mak­ing sure that our dis­putes with China will be re­solved peace­fully ... will now have to give way to the diplo­matic pro­cesses that we have to pur­sue pre­cisely for the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of th­ese dis­putes.”

Kerry also urged China and the Philip­pines to fol­low this month’s ar­bi­tra­tion rul­ing, which de­nies China’s long­stand­ing his­toric rights in the South China Sea and was firmly opposed by Bei­jing.

The de­ci­sion of the ar­bi­tral tri­bunal con­vened un­der UNCLOS is legally bind­ing.” US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry,

“We have made clear that the de­ci­sion of the ar­bi­tral tri­bunal con­vened un­der UNCLOS (the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Law of the Sea) is legally bind­ing and that we ex­pect the par­ties to com­ply with their obli­ga­tions,” Kerry said.

At the Sixth East Asia For­eign Min­is­ters’ Meet­ing on Tues­day, Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi said the rul­ing “runs counter to the spirit of in­ter­na­tional rule of law as well as the prin­ci­ple and spirit of UNCLOS”.

It is “im­bued with ques­tion marks and fal­la­cies in terms of pro­ce­dure, le­gal ap­pli­ca­tion, fact-find­ing and ev­i­dence­gath­er­ing”, Wang said.

BUL­LIT MAR­QUEZ / AP

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry is greeted by his Philip­pine coun­ter­part Per­fecto Yasay be­fore their meet­ing in Pasay City, south of Manila, on Wed­nes­day.

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