United States fears clashes in South China Sea - Sec. Gates

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) shows the light Blue Dotted line as 200 Nautical Mile Economic Zone for the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Blue dotted line includes most part of the Kalayaan Island Group (Spratly) of the Philippines. UNCLOS did not show any China’s territory in the West Philippines Sea. The Philippines recorded already 6 invasion by china to the West Philippine Sea As of June 3, 2011.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Saturday that clashes may erupt in the South China Sea unless nations with conflicting territorial claims adopt a mechanism to settle disputes peacefully.

“There are increasing concerns. I think we should not lose any time in trying to strengthen these mechanisms that I’ve been talking about for dealing with competing claims in the South China Sea,” he said.

“I fear that without rules of the road, without agreed approaches to deal with these problems, that there will be clashes. I think that serves nobody’s interests,” Gates told a security conference in Singapore, before flying to Kabul.

The islands at the center of the long-running dispute are the Paracel archipelago and the more southerly Spratlys, both potentially resource-rich outcrops that straddle strategic shipping lanes.

China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have laid claim to overlapping sections of the territories.

Gates called on the countries involved to build on a 2002 agreement between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China setting a “code of conduct” aimed at resolving disputes peacefully.

Diplomatic tensions have risen in recent weeks following allegations of increased Chinese activity in the area.

On Friday, President Benigno Aquino said the country had documented up to seven incidents in less than four months in which China trespassed into what Manila considers its territorial waters.

One of the incidents involved a Chinese vessel allegedly opening fire on Filipino fishermen, he added.

In May, Chinese maritime ships confronted a Vietnamese oil exploration vessel between the Paracels and the Spratlys.

Hanoi also reported that Chinese ships fired warning shots at Vietnamese fishermen near the Spratly islands last Wednesday, which the Chinese foreign ministry has denied.

“As far as I know, the relevant reports are purely without foundation. China is dedicated to maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea,” spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

“China wishes to work with relevant countries to make the South China Sea a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation.”


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