September 05, 2012

Sec. Clinton Urges Countries to "Literally Calm the Water" in South China Sea

All eyes are on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her visit to the Asia Pacific this week.

On Tuesday, Secretary Clinton met with officials of the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in Jakarta where she encouraged ASEAN leaders to work cooperatively with China to resolve the longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea. “The United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims ... but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation and certainly without the use of force," Secretary Clinton said, according to a report on "That is why we encourage ASEAN and China to make meaningful progress toward finalizing a comprehensive code of conduct in order to establish rules of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements."

While meeting with officials in Indonesia, Secretary Clinton reiterated America’s interest in the peaceful resolution of the South China Sea dispute, saying “The United States has a national interest, as every country does, in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea." 

Secretary Clinton also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing on Tuesday and is expected to meet with other top Chinese officials today to discuss a range of issues, including Syria and the South China Sea.

Before arriving in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry issued a public statement reacting to Secretary Clinton’s visit with ASEAN officials in Jakarta. “The U.S. has many times said it does not take a position,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, according to a Washington Post report. “I hope they will keep their promise and do more to help stability and not the opposite. The South China Sea dispute is a complicated thing. To China, the South China Sea dispute is about the sovereignty of some of the islands there. China, like other countries in the world, has the obligation to safeguard its territories.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Japanese media outlets reported that Tokyo plans to purchase a group of uninhabited islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan, that are at the heart of a territorial dispute between China and Japan in the East China Sea. According to a report in Japan’s The Asahi Shimbun, “The Noda administration will pay 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) for the islands” from a private Japanese landowner. The deal is likely to strike a chord with Chinese officials and may escalate tensions between Tokyo and Beijing.

For more on the dispute in the East China Sea, see a recent CNAS Flashpoints Bulletin by Michael Auslin, “Don’t Forget About the East China Sea.”

To learn more about U.S. interests in the South China Sea, read CNAS’s January 2012 report, Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea

Photo: Secretary of State Clinton departed Indonesia for China Tuesday, September 4, 2012. Courtesy of the U.S. State Department. 

    • Commentary
    • World Politics Review
    • February 8, 2019
    How China and the U.S. Are Competing for Young Minds in Southeast Asia

    Business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month warned that China has overtaken the United States in the development of artificial intelligence and other emer...

    By Kristine Lee

    • Commentary
    • War on the Rocks
    • September 21, 2016
    China's Artificial Islands Are Bigger (And a Bigger Deal) Than You Think

    Surely you have heard the news — China has been dredging up coral reefs and creating artificial islands in the South China Sea with the purpose of enforcing their claims...

    By CDR Thomas Shugart, USN

    • Commentary
    • The National Interest
    • August 10, 2016
    Beijing's Go Big or Go Home Moment in the South China Sea

    China is preparing for its go or go home moment in the South China Sea and it appears they have chosen the right time to make a play for regional and, ultimately, global domin...

    By Jerry Hendrix

    • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • July 22, 2016
    Parting the South China Sea

    July 12, 2016, marked a turning point in the long-standing disputes over the South China Sea. After more than three years of proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration,...

    By Mira Rapp-Hooper

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia