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US To Continue Regular Talks on South China Sea, Diplomat Says

Scot Marciel, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs for the US State Department gives an exclusive interview with VOA Khmer's Kong Sothanarith in Phnom Penh, Wednesday, August 27, 2014. (VOA Khmer)

A senior US diplomat says the US will remain neutral over South China
Sea disputes in the region, but it will continue to have discussions
with claimants.

In an interview with VOA Khmer, Scot Marciel, the State Department’s
top diplomat for Asia and the Pacific, said “regular conversations”
will help reduce regional tensions over the sea.

“The whole world has an interest in a peaceful South China Sea and in
seeing these disputes resolved peacefully and diplomatically,” he said
in an interview in Phnom Penh last week. “So we’ll continue to make
that point.”

Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have
claims to different parts of the sea, which overlap with competing
claims from China.

Marciel said the US’s diplomatic focus on Asia includes economic and
trade cooperation, but it will remain neutral on the South China Sea

“What we have said consistently is it is very important how this
dispute is resolved, that it should be done peacefully through
diplomatic and legal mechanisms, not by force or threats or economic
coercion,” he said. “So that’s why we have consistently, first,
supported the negotiations of a code of conduct between Asean and
China that would set sort of rules of behavior, but also called for
the claimants to avoid any kind of actions that might raise tensions.
Because it is going to take a while to solve the sovereignty claims,
and it is very important that the dispute be handled peacefully and
that everybody avoid any kind of act that might create tension.”

The US navy has meanwhile continued to hold talks with the Chinese
over conduct in the South China Sea.

“We continue to have very productive dialogue with our Chinese
counterparts,” said Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of US Pacific
Command. “Particularly relating to maritime security forces and
military forces and how we can operate in a professional way with each
other to eliminate the possibility of miscalculation.”

China and Asean are also continuing talks on a code of conduct to
reduce provocations on the sea, but progress has stalled, in part
because China wants to deal with each different country bilaterally,
while Asean and its members would prefer multilateral solutions.