U.S. begins quiet diplomacy to ease S. China Sea tensions

A search and rescue exercise conducted by China in the Paracel Islands on Thursday.  

The United States is using quiet diplomacy to persuade the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and other Asian nations not to move aggressively to capitalise on an international court ruling that denied China’s claims to the South China Sea, several U.S. administration officials said on Wednesday.

“What we want is to quiet things down so these issues can be addressed rationally instead of emotionally,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private diplomatic messages.

Outreach to countries

Some were sent through U.S. embassies abroad and foreign missions in Washington, while others were conveyed directly to top officials by Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior officials, the sources said.

“This is a blanket call for quiet, not some attempt to rally the region against China, which would play into a false narrative that the U.S. is leading a coalition to contain China,” the official added.

The effort to calm the waters following the court ruling on Tuesday suffered a setback when Taiwan dispatched a warship to the area. The U.S. officials said they hoped the U.S. diplomatic initiative would be more successful in Indonesia and in the Philippines.

China, for its part, repeated pleas for talks between Beijing and Manila, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying the it is time to get things back on the “right track” after the “farce” of the case.

Meanwhile, two Chinese civilian aircraft landed on Wednesday at two new airports on reefs controlled by China in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, a move the U.S. State Department said would increase tensions rather than lower them.

ASEAN meet

The court ruling is expected to dominate a meeting at the end of July in Laos of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang, will attend the ministerial. — Reuters

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 11:04:00 AM |

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