The United States on Saturday fired a broadside at China over the maritime rows roiling Asia and secured assurances over its exports of rare earth minerals, which have become another regional irritant.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waded into the disputes over South China Sea and East China Sea islands as she took part in the 16-nation East Asia Summit, which the US is attending for the first time.
“The United States has a national interest in the freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce,” the chief US diplomat said in a speech to the EAS, repeating the US position in the presence of China in Vietnam's capital.
“And when disputes arise over maritime territory, we are committed to resolving them peacefully based on customary international law,” Clinton said.
But she also sounded a softer note, saying “with regard to the South China Sea, we are encouraged by China's recent steps to enter discussions with ASEAN about a more formal binding code of conduct.”
Diplomatic sources say that a working group from ASEAN and China will meet in December to prepare the groundwork and establish technical details on how a code could be formulated.
The US has said it is willing to help craft the code to end disputes that threaten regional stability.