Supporting that U.S. involvement may make the situation worse
China urged the United States on Wednesday to leave the South China Sea dispute to the claimant states, saying that U.S. involvement may make the situation worse, its most direct warning to Washington in recent weeks.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai’s comments to a small group of foreign reporters ahead of a meeting with U.S. officials in Hawaii this weekend come amid the biggest flare-up in regional tension in years over competing maritime sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
Tension has risen in the region in the past month on concern that China is becoming more assertive in its claim to waters believed to be rich in oil and gas.
Part of the waters are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
“The United States is not a claimant state to the dispute in the South China Sea and so it’s better for the United States to leave the dispute to be sorted out between claimant states,” Cui said.
“While some American friends may want the United States to help in this matter, we appreciate their gesture but more often than not such gestures will only make things more complicated,” he said.
“If the United States wants to play a role, it may counsel restraint to those countries that have been taking provocative action and ask them to be more responsible in their behavior,” he said.
“I believe the individual countries are actually playing with fire and I hope the fire will not be drawn to the United States.”
While China has called for disputes to be resolved bilaterally, others, including the Philippines, have urged a multilateral approach.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Eduardo Malaya told reporters in Manila the disputes “affect not just the claimant countries but the entire region itself and beyond, and thus call for a multi-stakeholder approach.” He did not mention the United States.
Cui, who will co-host this weekend’s consultations with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, emphasized that China was not responsible for the dispute and said it was greatly concerned by frequent provocations by other countries.
“We are troubled by some recent events in the South China Sea but we were not the party who provoked these incidents,” he said.
“If you examine the facts closely, you will recognize who are the countries that have occupied islands under other countries’ sovereignty by illegal means. It was certainly not China. Who are the countries that have done the most to explore oil and gas resources in the region? It was certainly not China.
“Who are the countries that displayed force or used force against the fishermen of other countries? Again, it was certainly not China.”
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