The United States’ Secretary of State John Kerry said he will be pressing China and other Southeast Asian countries to discuss several ongoing disputes over various territories in the South China Sea. China has been seen as “reluctant” to discuss these issues publicly with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and instead deals with the individual claimants
Kerry is in Brunei for the East Asian Summit (EAS) and met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on the sidelines to discuss various concerns, which includes the aforementioned disputes. In his opening remarks, Kerry told ASEAN Leaders that despite US President Barack Obama‘s absence at the summit, it doesn’t mean the US is not committed to their strategic pivot towards Asia. “That rebalance is a commitment, it is there to stay and will continue into the future,” Kerry said. He also emphasized that the Obama administration holds its relationship with the ASEAN as one of its top priorities.
He will also be expected to urge the member states to pursue “enhanced coherence and unity” when it comes to negotiating for a code of conduct for the South China Sea. China’s claims over the South China Sea, an area that is rich in oil and gas, overlaps with claims of Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam. There is a certain resentment also with China in what they see as the US meddling in a regional issue. But the US says they are neutral in this aspect, but at the same time want to put pressure on China and the other claimants to settle this issue for the stability of the region.
Japan and China have their own territorial squabble going on over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. The US has also been encouraging the two countries to come to the negotiating table, but China will only agree if Japan acknowledges that there is a dispute. Japan’s stance has been that since China has no legal claim over the resource-rich islands, there is no dispute.