Blinken: China’s land reclamation works add tension in region

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 19 expressed Washington’s concern over China’s land reclamation works in the East Sea (internationally known as South China Sea), saying the move could cause more tension in the region.

Blinken: China’s land reclamation works add tension in region

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken (3rd, L) and U.S Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius (R) are seen at a meeting with members of Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) before a meeting with reporters in HCMC on May 19 - PHOTO: U.S. CONSULATE GENERAL IN HCMC

Blinken shared the concern with reporters at a meeting in HCMC on May 19.

“The reclamation projects - the size, the scale, the scope, the potential for militarization - are potentially destabilizing and add tension to the region, which is not what is needed,” Blinken said in the transcript of the meeting sent to the Daily. 

“What we’ve seen in some of the actions that China has taken in the maritime domain in particular, whether it’s the South China Sea, the East China Sea, in terms of unilaterally making claims, and then using coercion, or intimidation, and sometimes even force, to assert those claims, or to try to change the status quo unilaterally, for example, with these reclamation projects.”

Blinken said the U.S. has a strong interest in freedom of navigation, preserving peace and stability in the region, and upholding the rule of law and international norms.

However, “some of the actions that China has taken run counter to those interests and to those principles,” he said, adding the U.S. calls on all claimants to refrain from provocative actions and to pursue their claims peacefully and through legal mechanisms.

“…a China-ASEAN declaration that was signed a decade ago that calls for all claimants in this area to exercise self-restraint and not to complicate or escalate disputes by their actions. Our concern is that some of the actions that China has taken are doing exactly that,” Blinken said.

He confirmed the U.S. does not take sides on competing claims in the East Sea.

“Our hope is that together with China, in particular with ASEAN and the development of the Code of Conduct, we can all come together in a way to resolve these different claims, or resolve differences over assertions of territorial sovereignty in a peaceful manner consistent with international law and rules and norms. That is what we are looking at doing,” he said.

Blinken mentioned the Code of Conduct as one of the solutions to disputes in the East Sea. “I think that the Code of Conduct would be a great way forward. That’s what we would like to see, but it’s very largely dependent on China, because the scope, because, again, the scale of its actions are far, far greater than anyone else’s.”

He expected China’s rise will be peaceful and that it will act in line with international rules, norms and laws.

Regarding the planned U.S. visit by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Blinken said President Obama looks forward to receiving the General Secretary in Washington.

“This is a historic visit. It will be the first by a Party General Secretary to Washington and the United States. It will send a very powerful message to the world - a message that former adversaries, who fought a very difficult war that caused tremendous suffering, can become friends.

“The cooperation between us is broadening into more and more areas, and it’s deepening. I think that the visit can point to all of those things. And also present a shared vision for the future of our partnership.”

Blinken: China’s land reclamation works add tension in region