US says won’t tol­er­ate nav­i­ga­tion curbs in tense South China Sea


The United States warned Thurs­day it would not tol­er­ate ef­forts to con­trol sea and air routes in the South China Sea, as South­east Asian na­tions de­bated how hard to pres­sure Bei­jing on its is­land-build­ing.

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said at a re­gional sum­mit that open nav­i­ga­tion of the strate­gi­cally im­por­tant area was an “in­trin­sic right.”

“Let me be clear: The United States will not ac­cept re­stric­tions on free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight, or other law­ful uses of the sea,” he told re­porters in Kuala Lumpur, af­ter at­tend­ing a sum­mit dom­i­nated by the flash­point is­sue.

China has sparked alarm by ex­pand­ing tiny reefs and con­struct­ing mil­i­tary posts, steps viewed by some of its neigh­bors as vi­o­lat­ing a re­gional pledge against provoca­tive ac­tions in the area.

The long sim­mer­ing dis­pute has flared at the Malaysia meet, which is be­ing hosted by the 10-na­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) and in­cludes en­voys from more than a dozen other na­tions such as China, Ja­pan, South Korea and the U.S..

Bei­jing claims con­trol over nearly the en­tire South China Sea, a key ship­ping route thought to hold rich oil and gas re­serves.

Viet­nam, the Philip­pines, Malaysia and Brunei — all ASEAN mem­bers — also have var­i­ous claims, as does Tai­wan, many of which over­lap.

Each year the re­gional ASEAN bloc, which prides it­self on its history of con­sen­sus diplo­macy, re­leases a joint com­mu­nique af­ter the an­nual meet­ing of its for­eign min­is­ters, which took place Tues­day.

But the na­tions have been at log­ger­heads for the last three days over the word­ing of the para­graphs ad­dress­ing the South China Sea.

Diplo­matic sources told AFP that the Philip­pines and Viet­nam in par­tic­u­lar were push­ing for stronger lan­guage on Chi­nese land recla­ma­tion, which could help shore up Bei­jing’s dis­puted ter­ri­to­rial claims.

Chi­nese Friends

But there was push­back from tra­di­tional China al­lies among the as­so­ci­a­tion, they added.

“China’s friends are tak­ing a hard stance,” said one diplo­mat fa­mil­iar with the draft­ing.

The diplo­mat did not spec­ify which coun­tries were tak­ing a hard line, but Cam­bo­dia, Laos and Myan­mar tra­di­tion­ally ally with China within ASEAN.

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