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South China Sea Disputes Loom as ASEAN Holds Forum

by Pamela Dockins August 05, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the maritime dispute in the South China Sea is among the issues he discussed with China's foreign minister, on Wednesday, on the sidelines of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Nations) regional forum in Malaysia.

Kerry said he had a good bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

"The United States shares the frequently expressed desire of ASEAN members to preserve peace and stability in the South China Sea," said Kerry in opening remarks at the ASEAN – U.S. ministerial meeting.

The group wants to "see that disputes in the area are managed peacefully and on the basis of international law," he added.

The United States and a number of Southeast Asian countries have urged China to freeze its land reclamation project in the region. The request has received a cool response from China.

China has been creating artificial islands in waters where Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines have overlapping claims.

'The way you get a resolution about the South China Sea dispute, short of full-blown conflict, is if China decides it is too damaging to its own image as a responsible rising power,' said analyst Greg Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Kerry Graduates from Crutches

Kerry entered the forum using a cane instead of crutches – a first since he broke his leg in a June biking accident.

In comments at one session, he said the cane was loaned to him by former President John F. Kennedy's family and dated back to Joseph Kennedy, who served as U.S. ambassador to England.

Kerry is in Southeast Asia to stress the importance of U.S. trade and investment and links to prosperity for the Asian and U.S. economies.

Kerry Promotes Regional Trade, Investment

He arrived in Kuala Lumpur late Tuesday from Singapore, where he held talks with officials on issues including the proposed Trans Pacific-Partnership (TPP), a massive 12-nation trade plan.

In a speech at a Singapore university, he said trade ministers involved in TPP talks had made "good progress." However the ministers failed to reach a final agreement during talks in Hawaii, last week.

Kerry is on a five nation-tour that also included stops in Egypt and Qatar.

Kerry to Attend Commemoration in Vietnam

After visiting Kuala Lumpur, Kerry will wrap up his trip in the Vietnamese capitol, Hanoi.

He will mark the 20th anniversary of renewed bilateral ties that were severed four decades ago as the protracted Vietnam War came to an end.



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