By Mei Jingya, Sina English
The United States is drawing itself deeper into the South China Sea conflict, saying on Aug 14th that China should not use bilateral talks to attempt to "divide and conquer" nations with competing territorial claims.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland made the above comments following a recent visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, according to an AP report.
"What we're most concerned about at the moment is that tensions are going up among the stakeholders so we want to see a commitment to a deal that meets the needs of all," Nuland told a news conference in Washington.
AP says, the ASEAN ministers’ meeting over the South China Sea last month ended fruitlessly due to disagreements lodged by the Philippines and Vietnam, who have been taking up their individual disputes with China.
Earlier this month, the U.S. also pointed fingers at China's establishment of Sansha city and Chinese military garrison on an island, where the new city is seated, in the South China Sea.
At the press conference, Nuland said the U.S. is urging ASEAN and China to work on a code of conduct for the South China Sea, which boasts some of the world's busiest sea lanes and is believed to have vast energy deposits.
She said bilateral diplomacy supporting a multilateral deal is fine, "but an effort to divide and conquer and end up with a competitive situation among the different claimants is not going to get where we need to go."
As a matter of fact, the so-called “divide and conquer” diplomacy Nuland refers to is China’s long-standing mechanism to handle territorial disputes bilaterally, rather than multilaterally. China earlier responded to Washington’s proposal of a multilateral solution. In April, Chinese Foreign Ministry said the South China Sea disputes should be resolved through peaceful negotiations between claimants, and that the adoption of “a code of conduct” be worked out by China and ASEAN countries directly.
Nuland says the U.S. does not take a position on the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, but as a Pacific power, it has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and security in the region.
The New York Times earlier also accused China of playing hardball on South China Sea disputes through politics and ships.
Analysts say, regardless of Washington’s repeated statement that it will keep neutral on the South China Sea issue, the U.S. has, in actuality, never ceased to voice its stand and take sides constantly to stir up discord in the region and fish from the troubled water.
It is none other than the U.S. who is playing “divisive diplomacy” in the South China Sea.