April 20, 2018

US, China hold NSA-level talks after South China Sea verdict

Beijing: The US on Monday called for candour and openness ahead of NSA-level talks with China here, the first such high-level political dialogue since an international tribunal rejected Beijing’s expansive claims over the strategic South China Sea.

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice began her visit here by holding talks with her counterpart Yang Jiechi after China’s outright rejection of the tribunal, questioning its legality.

Welcoming Rice, Yang said ahead of their talks that the US and China have been cooperating more closely on global issues such as nuclear nonproliferation and the Ebola epidemic and both sides should carefully manage their differences.

Acknowledging that US and China faced other ‘global issues and challenges’, Rice said ‘to the extent that we are able to surface those challenges in candour and openness, I’m confident that we will be able to work on them as we have many others in the past’.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on July 12 noted there was no legal basis for Beijing’s claim to nearly all of the waterway. While quashing China’s claims, it also upheld the Philippines’ rights over the area.

China claims sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan seriously differ with Beijing’s claims and accuse China of illegally reclaiming land in contested areas to create artificial islands with facilities that could potentially be for military use.

On July 15, Yang said the sovereignty issue is China’s bottom line.

“Though China is large, we cannot lose one centimetre of inheritance left by the ancestors,” Yang, who is the State Councillor, holding a rank higher than Foreign Minister, said in an interview rejecting the tribunal verdict.

Earlier the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy Wu Shengli told US counterpart Admiral John Richardson during their meeting here that “we will never stop our construction on the Nansha (Spratly) Islands halfway… The Nansha Islands are China’s inherent territory, and our necessary construction on the islands is reasonable, justified and lawful”.

Besides discussing the management of tensions in the South China Sea after the tribunal verdict, Rice also was expected to focus her talks on the preparations for the US President Barack Obama visit to take part in the G20 summit to be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou in September this year.

She is also expected to call on top Chinese leadership.

The South China Sea, rich in natural resources, is also a major shipping lane. Over half of the world’s commercial shipping passes through the Indo-Pacific waterways including one-thirds of the world’s liquefied natural gas.

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