At the recent ASEAN Regional Forum, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended the announcement that the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, and China have agreed on implementing guidelines for the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to facilitate confidence building measures and joint projects. "This is an important first step toward achieving a Code of Conduct and reflects the progress that can be made through dialogue and multilateral diplomacy," she said.
The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, and respect for international law in the South China Sea. The United States opposes the threat or use of force by any claimant in the South China Sea to advance its claims or interfere with legitimate economic activity. The U.S. shares these interests not only with ASEAN members and ASEAN Regional Forum participants, but with other maritime nations and the broader international community.
Secretary Clinton said, “The United States supports a collaborative diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving the various disputes in the South China Sea. We also support the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. But we do not take a position on the competing territorial claims over land features in the South China Sea. We believe all parties should pursue their territorial claims and accompanying rights to maritime space in accordance with international law, including as reflected in the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.”
"In keeping with the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration, each of the parties should comply with their commitments to respect freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, to resolve their disputes through peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force," Secretary Clinton continued. "They should exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability. . . .The United States encourages all parties to accelerate efforts to reach a full Code of Conduct in the South China Sea."
Secretary Clinton concluded, “We also call on all parties to clarify their claims in the South China Sea in terms consistent with customary international law, including as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. Consistent with international law, claims to maritime space in the South China Sea should be derived solely from legitimate claims to land features."