South China Sea disputes may disrupt trade in Asia

South China Sea disputes may disrupt trade in Asia
This picture taken on June 2, 2014 shows a Chinese Coast Guard ship (R) using a water cannon to attack a Vietnamese Fisheries Surveillance boat near to the site of the Chinese oil rig in disputed waters of the South China Sea off Vietnam's central coast.

CHINA - Territorial disputes over the South China Sea pose a threat to trade in Asia, creating uncertainties that are bad for business, officials from the United States and Singapore warn.

In a news briefing here yesterday, US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker criticised China's decision to tow a deep-water oil rig 300km from Vietnam's shores. Such actions "are provocative and raise tensions, and we're very concerned about that", she said.

Ms Pritzker said China's "dangerous conduct and intimidation by (its) vessels operating in the area is not good".

"As it relates to the business environment, our belief is that it's important that there is certainty, and actions like these create uncertainty, which is not good for the business environment," she said.

In an separate interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the risk that territorial disputes will damage trade in Asia is "very real".

"It's completely artificial to think that there are somehow firewalls between trade and security," he said in an interview at the Ministry of Defence. "We shouldn't, from a security point of view, be dominating headlines every few other days, and I don't think it's necessarily a positive if this continues for the region. At some point, it may impact trade and our real economies."

The region should focus on shoring up economic links, as well as security ties, he said.

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