Tags: China | North Korea | John Kerry

Kerry to Press China on Maritime Disputes, North Korea

Image: Kerry to Press China on Maritime Disputes, North Korea

Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014 05:54 PM

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will press China to calm maritime disputes with its neighbors and to push North Korea to curb its nuclear ambitions this week, senior U.S. officials said on Wednesday.

The United States has been increasingly uneasy at what it sees as China's effort to gain creeping control over waters in the Asia-Pacific region, including its Nov. 23 declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in an area of the East China Sea that includes islands at the center of a dispute with Japan.

Speaking as Kerry flew to Seoul, the first stop on a trip that will also take him to Beijing, Jakarta and Abu Dhabi, one official said that the United States was "unequivocal" in its commitment to freedom of the seas and the skies in the region.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States wanted countries in the region to operate "on the basis of rules and not on the basis of might makes right."

"That is a guiding principle for us and our planning, on the military side as well as our broader policies, reflect that," added the official.

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million square km (1.35 million square miles) South China Sea, depicting what it sees as its area on maps with a so-called nine-dash line, looping far out over the sea from south China.

U.S. officials have publicly questioned whether China's claims are in line with international law, saying those that do not flow from land features are "fundamentally flawed."

They have recently warned that any declaration by Beijing of another ADIZ in the South China Sea could result in changes to U.S. military deployments in the region.

 

"It is unwise in the extreme for China to take actions that are disruptive of stability in the region," said the official. "China should do nothing to upend the status quo or to raise tensions and concerns."

China's foreign ministry over the weekend accused the United States of undermining peace and development in the Asia-Pacific by its more assertive stance on the disputes, saying "these actions are not constructive."

Chinese officials described Kerry's trip as an "important" visit in which China would explore ways to strengthen ties and seek to deepen the "new model relationship" proposed when the U.S. and Chinese presidents met in California last year.

"We want to make that concept come alive," one Chinese official said on Tuesday.

While the United States and China disagree over the maritime disputes, they also work together on a host of issues including trying to curb the nuclear programs of both North Korea and Iran and to attenuate the effects of global climate change.

Even though it will be Kerry's fifth visit to Asia since taking office a year ago, it is only his second trip as secretary of state to Beijing.

The chief U.S. diplomat has faced some criticism for the time he has devoted to Middle East peace efforts rather than President Barack Obama's much vaunted policy of rebalancing the U.S. military and economic focus toward Asia.

Doubts about this U.S. commitment were highlighted in October when Obama called off plans to attend two summits in Asia because of a budget crisis at home, so the tougher stance on maritime disputes will be welcome in much of the region outside of China.

 

In Seoul, first stop on Kerry's trip, main topic will be North Korea, which over the weekend rescinded an invitation to a U.S. diplomat to visit Pyongyang to discuss the fate of an imprisoned U.S. missionary.

Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old Korean-American, has been held for more than a year in North Korea after being sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of trying to overthrow the state.

The United States has long sought to persuade China to use its economic leverage over the North, which has conducted three nuclear tests, to rein in its nuclear program, an appeal Kerry will make again in Beijing on Friday.

"We ask that China apply all of the tools at its disposal to bring North Korea" to accept that its pursuit of a nuclear missile capability is a "dead end," the U.S. official told reporters.

From Beijing Kerry flies to Jakarta, where he will give a speech on climate change in a country that is among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change because it is an archipelago made up of more than 17,000 islands.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

   
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will press China to calm maritime disputes with its neighbors and to push North Korea to curb its nuclear ambitions this week, senior U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
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Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014 05:54 PM
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