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Territorial And Maritime Disputes In The Asia-Pacific


An anti-China protester holds up a poster bearing an image of South Vietnamese naval captain Nguy Van Tha, who was killed during a naval clash with China at the Paracels islands.

Tensions arising from maritime and territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific are of deep concern to the United States and to its allies.

Tensions arising from maritime and territorial disputes in the Asia-Pacific are of deep concern to the United States and to its allies. We are working to help put in place diplomatic and other structures to lower tensions and manage these disputes peacefully. These efforts include supporting an ASEAN-China Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and crisis management procedures between China and Japan.



In Congressional testimony, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel reaffirmed that the U.S. has a national interest in freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, respect for international law, and peace and stability.

“Since the end of the Second World War, a maritime regime based on international law that promotes freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea has facilitated Asia’s impressive economic growth.”

The United States and others have sought to prevent provocative or unilateral actions that disrupt the status quo or jeopardize peace and security. We firmly oppose the use of intimidation, coercion or force to assert territorial or maritime claims. While the United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of land features in the East China and South China Seas, we do take a strong position that maritime claims must accord with customary international law, and therefore must be derived from land features.

The United States shares regional concerns over a pattern of assertive behavior by China in both seas. China’s announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea in November was a provocative act, and China should refrain from taking similar actions elsewhere in the region. In the South China Sea, China’s activities have unsettled its neighbors and raised tensions in the region.

Chinese actions appear to assert control over the area contained in its so-called “nine-dash line”, despite the objections of China’s neighbors and despite the lack of any explanation or apparent basis under international law regarding the scope of the claim itself. “China’s lack of clarity with regard to its South China Sea claims,” said Assistant Secretary Russel, “has created uncertainty, insecurity and instability in the region.”

“This is an issue of immense importance to the United States, the Asia-Pacific, and the world,” said Assistant Secretary Russel. “And I want to reaffirm here today that the United States will continue to play a central role in underwriting security and stability in the Asia-Pacific.”
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