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US South China Sea mediation effort treads sensitive waters.
The US today pressed China to agree to proposed naval guidelines meant to govern the often-hostile maritime behavior on the controversial South China Sea, territory claimed by China and many Southeast Asian nations, reported the Associated Press.
The issue has proven increasingly volatile in recent months, sparking naval standoffs and sharp words from various Southeast Asian nations and China, which claims basically the whole sea and has even built a city entirely dedicated to its administration, according to AP.
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Cambodia today that while the US position on the matter is neutral, "we do have an interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea."
The US, however, has signaled readiness to help boost the Philippines military forces. The Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan all say they should have a stake in the resource-rich sea, reported Reuters. Beijing has cautioned against any involvement by "external forces."
Clinton, who spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of a conference held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) earlier today, told reporters that the US is watching the "increase in tensions, the uptick in confrontational rhetoric and disagreements over resource exploitation" with concern, said AP.
The ASEAN, a 10-nation organization that does not include China, earlier this week announced that they had drafted a plan governing naval behavior in the disputed waters.
A US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters today that Yang offered Clinton a "careful indication" that Beijing might be open to working on the new code and would be speaking with the parties involved as soon as September.
The South China Sea, which holds an estimated 213 billion barrels of oil, making the territory more valuable than many resource-rich nations, Reuters said, citing a 2008 US Energy Information Administration report.