South China Sea

Press Statement
Patrick Ventrell
Acting Deputy Spokesperson, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
August 3, 2012

As a Pacific nation and resident power, the United States has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea. We do not take a position on competing territorial claims over land features and have no territorial ambitions in the South China Sea; however, we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively and diplomatically to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats, and without the use of force.

We are concerned by the increase in tensions in the South China Sea and are monitoring the situation closely. Recent developments include an uptick in confrontational rhetoric, disagreements over resource exploitation, coercive economic actions, and the incidents around the Scarborough Reef, including the use of barriers to deny access. In particular, China's upgrading of the administrative level of Sansha City and establishment of a new military garrison there covering disputed areas of the South China Sea run counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region.

The United States urges all parties to take steps to lower tensions in keeping with the spirit of the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. We strongly support ASEAN’s efforts to build consensus on a principles-based mechanism for managing and preventing disputes. We encourage ASEAN and China to make meaningful progress toward finalizing a comprehensive Code of Conduct in order to establish rules of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements. In this context, the United States endorses the recent ASEAN Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea.

We continue to urge all parties to clarify and pursue their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law, including the Law of the Sea Convention. We believe that claimants should explore every diplomatic or other peaceful avenue for resolution, including the use of arbitration or other international legal mechanisms as needed. We also encourage relevant parties to explore new cooperative arrangements for managing the responsible exploitation of resources in the South China Sea.

As President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear, Asia-Pacific nations all have a shared stake in ensuring regional stability through cooperation and dialogue. To that end, the United States actively supports ASEAN unity and leadership in regional forums and is undertaking a series of consultations with ASEAN members and other nations in the region to promote diplomatic solutions and to help reinforce the system of rules, responsibilities and norms that underpins the stability, security and economic dynamism of the Asia-Pacific region.

PRN: 2012/1263