US asks ASEAN claimants, China: Stop militarizing disputed seas

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 05 2017 02:34 PM | Updated as of May 05 2017 04:15 PM

The United States made an appeal to ASEAN claimants to the South China Sea, and to China, to stop militarizing the disputed area.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Patrick Murphy said that US State Department Secretary Rex Tillerson spent considerable time with his counterparts in the ASEAN talking about the territorial dispute, and noted that the United States wants to ensure that air and maritime transit is free. 

"The Secretary made a particular appeal, and that is for all parties involved to stop militarization, construction, reclamation of land in the South China Sea area while talks are going on, while there are peaceful efforts, dialogue, to achieve a lasting solution," Murphy said.

He added that ASEAN member-states can count on the United States to assert these rights, since these are important for trade, and regional and global security and peace.

"The Secretary was quite emphatic about the need to stop these activities to give talks a good chance of succeeding. And that was the primary message that he had to deliver to his counterparts." Murphy said.

He added that the United States will continue to assert its rights in the South China Sea through freedom of navigation operations and through diplomacy as well as dialogue with partners in the countries in the region.

"Our U.S. forces operate in the Asia Pacific region on a regular basis, on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. That won’t be stopping. That will continue. They’re conducted in accordance with international law and they demonstrate a very core principle that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever this international law allows." Murphy said.