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Indonesia, US agree on South China Sea

Diplomacy is the only way to solve territorial issues, they say

Hillary Clinton with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (Cabinet Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia) Hillary Clinton with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa (Cabinet Secretariat of the Republic of Indonesia)
  • Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • September 4, 2012
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Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have agreed that the South China Sea territorial dispute must be settled peacefully through diplomacy.

“Regarding the South China Sea, both countries still have a similar view that the territorial dispute should be settled peacefully and through diplomatic means according to the principals of international law and the law of the sea,” Natalegawa said during a press conference held yesterday at the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta.

Indonesia and the US recognized the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific so that this region’s welfare and progress could be achieved, he continued. The South China Sea is home to islands claimed by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam and has been increasingly the subject of international debate on rights for fishing and extraction.

Clinton said the US does not take a position on competing territorial claims. “We believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation and certainly without the use of force,” she said.

The US, she added, has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and solidarity, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea.

“It is time for diplomacy,” she said.

At summit in July in Cambodia, the 10 member countries of ASEAN  failed to reach consensus on how to handle the dispute.

Indonesia, which does not lay claim to any of the contested islands, has played a significant role in putting a six-point plan together, including the implementation of Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

Dinna Wisnu, director of the Jakarta-based Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy, backed the high ranking officials’ remarks. However, “dialogue and diplomacy could be easily broken if related parties deliver sharp statements against one another," she said.

She also said that Clinton’s visits to Asia-Pacific countries are part of the US’s effort to keep its interest in the region. “The US’s big foreign policy, besides getting out of the Middle East issue, is to keep its image and interest in the Asia-Pacific region.”

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