The United States strongly urged China to seriously consider a code of conduct in the South China Sea, purportedly to ease the deepening dispute among claimants of the area, which is believe to hold vast amount of oil and natural gas reserves.
In the lead up to her scheduled one-on-one meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in the sideline functions of the ongoing Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) annual summit in Cambodia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that Beijing's interest will not be harmed should it accept the code of conduct that members of the regional body will submit for its review.
The code, media reports said, contains the rules agreed upon by the 10-member ASEAN that would govern maritime rights and navigation in the disputed area, which regularly processes more than 30 percent of the world's commercial maritime traffic.
The proposal is being hard-pushed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, most especially the first two nations, which have been locked in serious territorial showdowns with China during the past few months.
Manila has been at odds with Beijing over activities by Chinese fishing vessels in Scarborough Shoal, which allegedly were being protected by the powerful Chinese navy, while Hanoi was angered by China's recent decision to commence oil and gas explorations in a sea area both claimed by the two nations.
China has been arguing that the body of water southeast of the mainland historically belongs to its territory while the Philippines and Vietnam have anchored their claims on the internationally-accepted economic zone arguments.
With all sides unwilling to compromise, analysts fear that the present diplomatic disputes could soon graduate into a full-scale conflict, which could disrupt the flow of international commerce passing through the region.
But Ms Clinton said such scenario can be averted especially on part of Beijing, being the more powerful entity in the sparring parties.
In airing the American position, she reiterated that "the United States has no territorial claims there and we do not take sides in disputes about territorial or maritime boundaries."
"But we do have an interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea," the top U.S. diplomat was quoted by The Associated Press (AP) as saying on Thursday.
The U.S. would want key regional players to "work collaboratively and diplomatically to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation, without threats and without use of force."
Analysts said Washington's current posturing is in line with its renewed interest to ramp up America's presence in the Asia Pacific region following decades of focus in Europe, Israel and the Middle East.
Following its withdrawal from Iraq and its scheduled pull out from Afghanistan on 2014, the U.S. has been increasingly redeploying its military might in the region, a tactic highlighted last year by an agreement with Australia that allows the future stationing of U.S forces northwest of the country.
The Australian region is nearest to the contested South China Sea that would allow for quick reaction forces to be dispatched when necessary.
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