US to raise sea dispute in dialogue with ASEAN next month

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 21 2017 05:59 PM

MANILA – The United States government said it would raise the dispute in the South China Sea when it hosts the 30th ASEAN-US Dialogue in Washington D.C. on May 4. 

The US, to be represented by State Secretary Rex Tillerson, will not miss the opportunity to discuss “very frankly” with its allies in Southeast Asia the tension concerning disputed areas west of the Philippines, said Patrick Murphy, the deputy assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

"We can very much expect that the South China Sea issue will be addressed and talked about very frankly so that we can all continue to pursue what we hope will be the inevitable outcome, and that is peaceful resolution to these disputes," Murphy said.

Murphy, however, emphasized that US support for freedom of navigation remains. 

"We will continue to sail and fly where international law permits. I think that's our longstanding policy and that remains the case," he said.

The US government believes that the South China Sea should be the scene of unimpeded commerce and travel, Murphy said, and that the entire international community relies a great deal on unimpeded travel and commerce through this region. 

Murphy said issues on terrorism would also be part of the agenda once Tillerson meets with his counterparts in the 10-member ASEAN. 

"These are difficult times worldwide and Southeast Asia is no exception. This region faces challenges from traffickers, from crime in general, from terrorism, from territorial disputes. And I think we can envision all of these topics will be the subject of discussion," Murphy said.

Murphy said the meeting would also bolster US relationship with its allies in Southeast Asia.

"We hear consistently from them that they value US engagement and presence in the region. And they wanted to make it clear early on that as a strategic partner, ASEAN has been a strategic partner of the United States they wanted to continue with the United States administration, the new administration, this partnership, this relationship, and to ensure sustained U.S. engagement in the region," Murphy said.