US Not ‘Neutral’ in South China Sea Disputes: Top US Diplomat

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The United States is not neutral when it comes to following international law in the South China Sea and will come down forcefully to ensure that all parties adhere to the rules, Washington’s top diplomat for East Asia said Tuesday.

The United States has repeatedly said that while it takes no position on competing sovereignty claims over disputed land features in the South China Sea, it does want these maritime claims to be advanced in accordance with international law and without the use of coercion (See: “The Case for a Bolder US South China Sea Policy“). That hedged position has led some to incorrectly read the U.S. stance on the issue as being ‘neutral,’ with China in particular accusing Washington of ‘taking sides.’

But in response to a question by a Chinese participant on perceived U.S. ‘neutrality’ in the South China Sea, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel firmly clarified at a think tank conference in Washington, D.C. that this neutrality only extended to the competing claims, rather than the way in which the disputes were resolved.

“We are not neutral when it comes to adhering to international law. We will come down forcefully when it comes to following the rules,” Russel said during a keynote speech delivered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Read more: http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/us-not-neutral-in-south-china-sea-disputes-top-us-diplomat/

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