US, ASEAN committed to resolve territorial claims on South China Sea

New York: The United States and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have a consensus to address the territorial disputes on the South China Sea, US Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters following the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the sidelines of the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Sullivan said, “I have met with a number of – bilaterally with a number of ASEAN countries during my week here at UNGA. I would say that there is consensus, a commitment by ASEAN and the United States to the rule of law, the Law of the Sea treaty, that should govern these claims, disputed claims to the South China Sea, and not unilateral actions by one country to develop features in the South China Sea and, even worse, to militarise them.”

“I think there was unanimity among the members in the room that there are, everyone acknowledges, disputed claims in the South China Sea. What every one of those member-countries and the United States is looking for is the resolution of those claims not unilaterally by one country but under the norms of international law,” he added.

Sullivan further said that Washington wishes for a peaceful resolution of all the disputes in the region. “During our meeting, I highlighted the US commitment to upholding international law, including the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. And our opposition to what the Chinese Government has done in the South China Sea is not because we think we are making a determination that China does or does not have a claim to a particular feature of the South China Sea. We want international law to be followed and for there to be a peaceful process, not a unilateral decision by one country, to resolve those claims, which involve a number of different countries – Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia,” he said.

The South China Sea is one of the most contested regions in the world. China, the Philippines, and Vietnam, among several others, have overlapping territorial claims on the sea.