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US urges unified stand on S China Sea

ASEAN must speak with one voice in addressing territorial disputes, Clinton says

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phnom Penh (US State Department) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phnom Penh (US State Department)
  • ucanews.com reporter, Phnom Penh
  • Cambodia
  • July 12, 2012
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today urged the Association of  Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to make a unified stand and come up with a legally binding treaty on the South China Sea.

“ASEAN needs to meet its own goals and standards and be able to speak with one voice on issues facing the region," Clinton said during a meeting at the ASEAN Regional Forum in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh yesterday.

She made the call amid escalating tension in the region and after Japan protested Chinese encroachments in disputed islands in the Pacific.

Four ASEAN member countries, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei, are embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Vietnam and the Philippines are also contesting other island territories in the South China Sea with China.

Clinton said ASEAN needs to address territorial disputes in the region.

"What might be a challenge today for some of ASEAN’s members, if left unaddressed by all of ASEAN, could lead tomorrow to issues that may become problems for [the rest of] other ASEAN members," she said during the meeting.

Clinton said the US "looks to ASEAN and claimant states to provide leadership in this issue and recognize[s] the important role of [Cambodia] to find consensus and advance a common ASEAN position."

Cambodia, a known ally of China, currently chairs ASEAN.

Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert  del Rosario said "the adherence of all countries in the region to a set of fair and transparent rules, as embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, will generate greater mutual trust and respect in the region."

The Philippines has been campaigning during the ASEAN meeting this week for a joint communique on its Scarborough Shoal dispute with China but Cambodia has been blocking the statement.

Efforts to come up with a joint communique have dragged for a week now and caused delays in scheduled meetings with ASEAN dialogue partners on Wednesday.

ASEAN's dialogue partners include the US, the European Union, Japan, China and South Korea.

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