South China Sea Dispute: What’s In It For US?

South China Sea Dispute: What’s In It For US?
F/A-18s and Su-30s fly above USS Enterprise. Official US Navy Page / Flickr CC BY 2.0

The dispute over South China Sea has emerged as a serious area of friction in U.S.-China relationship, said Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. While the U.S. is not a claimant of any parts of the disputed islands, China’s activities in the region are encroaching some of U.S.’s interests.


What’s In It For US?

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Russel said that problematic behavior in the South China Sea no longer fit the cooperative pattern among the southeast nations. While the maritime and territorial disputes are not intrinsically a U.S.-China issue, the U.S. feels the need to protect its interests infringed by Chinese activities in the region.

Russel outlined that the U.S. has the obligation to protect the unimpeded freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea by all, not just the U.S. Navy. It also has the responsibility to honor its alliance and security commitments, and retain the full confidence of its partners and the region in U.S.

Moreover, the U.S. is responsible for unifying the ASEAN and promoting responsible marine environment practices. The U.S. also has a task of fostering China’s peaceful rise in a manner that promotes economic growth and regional stability, including through consistency with international law and standards. And more generally, an international order based on compliance with international law and the peaceful of disputes without the threat or use of force.

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(Read more: What is US P8-A Poseidon Doing In South China Sea? Navy Is Discreet)

“Our goal is to ensure that not only can the U.S. Navy or Air Force exercise their navigational rights and freedoms, but ships and planes from even the smallest countries are also able to enjoy those rights without risk,” Russel said in his address.

“For us, it’s not about the rocks and shoals in the South China Sea or the resources in and under it, it’s about rules and it’s about the kind of neighborhood we all want to live in,” he said. The U.S. will continue to defend the rules, and encourage other countries to do so as well, he said.

Also read: US-China Miscalculation Imminent In South China Sea

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