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U.S. Says S. China Sea Events ‘Troubling’ After Vietnam Meeting

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June 18 (Bloomberg) -- Stability in South China Sea is in the “common interests” of the international community, the U.S. and Vietnam said in a joint statement in which the American side referred to “troubling incidents” recently in the area.

Tensions between Vietnam and China have escalated, with the Vietnamese government accusing Chinese vessels of harassing Vietnam Oil & Gas Group survey ships twice within the last month. A Chinese fishing boat “tangled with the cables” of an exploration ship while being “chased” by armed Vietnamese ships on June 9, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Vietnam welcomes international involvement to keep the peace in the South China Sea, the government said in a statement on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated June 11. China believes in a resolution of disputes in the sea “through bilateral direct negotiation and friendly consultation with relevant countries,” Hong said on June 14, according to a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website.

“The maintenance of peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the common interests of the international community,” the U.S. and Vietnamese governments said in the joint statement, which followed yesterday’s meeting in Washington of the “U.S.-Vietnam Political, Security and Defense Dialogue.”

Territorial disputes should be resolved through a “collaborative, diplomatic process without coercion or the use of force,” the governments of the two countries said. The meeting’s agenda included “recent developments” in the South China Sea.

Condemning Resolution

Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee on East Asian and Public Affairs and a former U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, during the past week submitted a resolution condemning what they described as “the use of force” by Chinese vessels.

In the June 9 incident, which took place within 200 miles (322 kilometers) of the Vietnamese coastline, three Chinese vessels ran into and disabled the cables of a Vietnamese ship, Webb and Inhofe said in the resolution.

“Relations with Vietnam right now are extremely good,” Webb told the Council on Foreign Relations on June 13, according to a transcript posted on the organization’s Web site. “The situation with the sovereignty issues in the South China Sea has actually helped our relationship in a sense that they understand that they have a commonality of interest.”

American government leaders have said the U.S. has a national interest in East Asia and the region has “an interest in our being here,” and following the Chinese-Vietnamese ship incidents, the U.S. has to “give clear signals,” Webb told the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Non-parties” to disputes in the area should respect “directly concerned parties” efforts to negotiate directly, China’s Hong said on June 14.

“Recently, some countries took unilateral actions which impaired China’s sovereignty as well as maritime rights and interests and released untrue and irresponsible remarks with the attempt to expand and complicate disputes over the South China Sea,” said Hong, when asked about Webb calling for a condemnation of China and for multilateral negotiations. Hong did not cite the names of any countries.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Folkmanis in Ho Chi Minh City at folkmanis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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