U.S. Seeks Calmer Waters
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calls for reduced tensions over China’s building of artificial islands
Photos by satellite-imagery provider DigitalGlobe shows what is believed to be Chinese vessels dredging sand at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. ENLARGE
Photos by satellite-imagery provider DigitalGlobe shows what is believed to be Chinese vessels dredging sand at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
May 16, 2015 8:33 a.m. ET
BEIJING—Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing is determined to protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea as his visiting U.S. counterpart John Kerry called for efforts to reduce tensions over China’s stepped-up building of artificial islands.
At a joint news conference Saturday, Mr. Kerry briefly expressed concern about the land reclamation in the South China Sea and urged China to take steps to defuse the situation. He tried to emphasize other positive aspects of bilateral relations, such as cooperation on climate change.
Mr. Kerry didn’t respond to a reporter’s question on whether the U.S. military is planning to send warships or planes within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Mr. Wang took up the question, however, saying the structures fall within the scope of China’s sovereignty.
“The determination of the Chinese side to safeguard our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock and it is unshakable,” Mr. Wang said. “It is the demand of our people on our government as well as a legitimate right of ours.”
Mr. Wang said China is committed to resolving territorial disputes peacefully and would continue ongoing talks about the artificial islands with the U.S. and other nations.
The two men had met earlier for talks on the first day of Mr. Kerry’s weekend visit to Beijing, which officials say is designed to lay the ground for high-level meetings by senior officials in Washington in June, and a state visit to the U.S. by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September.
Mr. Kerry was due to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday afternoon and Mr. Xi on Sunday before moving on to South Korea.
The visit to Beijing has been overshadowed by differences on the South China Sea, where Beijing’s extensive land reclamation in the past year has raised fresh concerns in Asia and the U.S. that it plans to use force to assert its sweeping territorial claims.
China’s claims cover almost all of the South China Sea—one of the world’s busiest shipping routes—and overlap with those of several neighboring countries, including the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally.
The U.S. military is now considering sending navy ships and aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands to demonstrate that the U.S. doesn't believe China can claim territorial seas around them, U.S. officials say.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a joint news conference in Beijing on Saturday, May 16, 2015. ENLARGE
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a joint news conference in Beijing on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Photo: Zuma Press
Ahead of Mr. Kerry’s visit, U.S. officials had said that he would take a tough line on the issue in Beijing.
At the news conference, Mr. Kerry said the U.S. had already expressed its concern over the pace and scope of China’s island-building.
“I urged China through Foreign Minister Wang to take actions that will join with everybody in helping to reduce tensions and increase the prospect of a diplomatic solution,” he said. The region, he said, needs “smart diplomacy” to achieve a code of conduct for the South China Sea rather than “outposts and military strips.”
Mr. Kerry also played down other points of recent tension, saying the U.S. welcomed China’s establishment of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The Obama administration at first tried to discourage allies from joining, U.S. officials and diplomats from allied countries have said, but switched to a more cooperative position when the bank, which is due to start operating this year, attracted many prospective members.
Mr. Wang said the infrastructure bank and other recent Chinese initiatives weren't aimed at reducing U.S. influence in Asia, noting that 23 of the 57 founding members of the new bank were not Asian nations.
“When we talk about openness and inclusiveness, we’re not simply talking the talk—we’re actually walking the walk,” Mr. Wang said.
Write to Jeremy Page at email@example.com
Popular on WSJ
It seems China has won a battle without firing a shot. US appears to be fully confused and disoriented as "loopholes" in the global order are ruthlessly exploited by many who like to serve and eat salami slices.