America Says South China Sea Code of Conduct Should ‘Include International Principles’


China has responded to criticism by claiming it has the right to build on its territory and defend its strategic interests at all costs.

As China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have approved a draft of a proposed agreement to prevent conflict in the disputed South China Sea, a US official has said international norms should be incorporated in the text.

China and the 10-nation bloc, which includes four claimants involved in the territorial dispute, have been engaged in sporadic negotiations for years to craft a “code of conduct” aimed at preventing violent outbreaks in the region.

“It’s important that all countries, regardless of their size, have the opportunity to represent their national interests as well as the very clear international principles including the principles that are enshrined in [the Law of the Sea]. That position is unchanged,” US Ambassador Piper Campbell, Charge d’Affairs at the US Mission to Asean, said on Tuesday.

She added that the US was pleased that China and Asean were moving towards negotiating a code of conduct, adding that forums like the East Asia Summit provide a good opportunity for the United States to discuss the issue with their Asian partners.

“Those meetings in Singapore provided an excellent opportunity for frank and clear conversations on the situation in the South China Sea, and to raise our very real concerns about ongoing activities of militarization and to ask for clarity about how those actual steps on the ground, how those fit with the principles that were enumerated by almost every country in the discussion,” Campbell said.

Prak Sokhonn, Cambodia’s foreign minister, said that the developments were positive.