Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China, Neighbors Set Up Hotlines over Island Disputes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

China, Neighbors Set Up Hotlines over Island Disputes

Article excerpt

China, confident after a recent high-level meeting in the United States and bilateral talks with regional rivals, is ignoring a second round of US advice to sign a code of conduct that could ease the threat of conflict in a crowded, contested tract of Asian ocean.

After protestations last year over US influence in the South China Sea when faced with the same advice rocked ties in the region, Beijing kept quiet about Secretary of State John Kerry's call Tuesday for a code of conduct with a bloc that includes other countries that claim the same waters.

But Beijing's inaction this time won't mean a diplomatic spat with Washington or neighbors, political experts say.

"I would doubt we would see as strong a negative reaction," says Ralph Cossa, president of Pacific Forum CSIS, a think tank in Hawaii. "The [US] South China Sea comments were in an international setting where China was trying very hard not to internationalize the issue."

China will still decline to sign a code of conduct, analysts expect, despite enjoying some high relations after an upbeat meeting last month between US President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The main reason? China resents the United States for jumping into an Asian dispute.

"China before was worried about the US stepping in, but now, it's more like 'why should I do more or give away something?'" says Nathan Liu, international affairs professor at Ming Chuan University in Taiwan.

What's the code about?

The code recommended by Mr. Kerry at an ASEAN forum in Brunei would likely list measures to avoid conflict on the 3.5 million- square-kilometer (1.4 million-square-mile) South China Sea stretching from Taiwan to Singapore.

It would not resolve sovereignty disputes that have pitted China against fellow sea claimants Vietnam and the Philippines since the 1970s. Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan also claim all or part of the South China Sea. …

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