Clinton says resolution to South China Sea disputes "urgent"
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Sunday that a resolution to territorial disputes over the South China Sea was urgent, DPA reported.
Clinton welcomed an agreement between the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China on a set guidelines governing the conduct of claimant countries in the South China, but urged the two sides to create a more binding code of conduct as soon as possible.
"We urge that ASEAN moves quickly, I would even add urgently, to achieve a code of conduct," she said after talks with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Bali, Indonesia.
Clinton said the South China Sea was "absolutely essential" to global trade, with 50 per cent of goods going through the area every year.
She said the United States "takes no position on any claim made by any party to any disputed area," but stressed the importance of freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce.
China claims sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, an area believed to be rich in oil and gas.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks after the Philippines and Vietnam accused China of harassing ships and being increasingly aggressive in staking its claims.
The Spratly Islands and parts of the South China Sea are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
Officials have welcomed the guidelines agreed between China and ASEAN as a landmark document that could ease tensions in the region, but said more efforts were needed to create a binding code of conduct.
As part of the implementation of the deal, China has proposed joint projects in the South China Sea in the areas of research, environmental protection, navigational safety, rescue operation and combating transnational crimes.
Natalegawa said ASEAN had a road map for the completion of the code of conduct but would not give a timetable for its completion.
"You can be sure we have a clear outline and expectations of what needs to be happen, including the identification of elements for a code of conduct," he said.
Clinton said Saturday that recent incidents in the South China Sea threatened peace and stability and urged parties involved in the disputes to exercise restraint.
Clinton arrived in Bali on Thursday to attend the Association of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, the Asia-Pacific's largest security dialogue, and hold a series of bilateral meetings with her Asian counterparts.
She was due to leave for Hong Kong later Sunday.