Shanmugam, Kerry reaffirm bilateral ties

Shanmugam, Kerry reaffirm bilateral ties

The foreign ministers of Singapore and the United States have called for swifter progress in crafting a code of conduct in the South China Sea, and for territorial disputes between China and several South-east Asian countries to be resolved peacefully.

Mr K. Shanmugam and his US counterpart John Kerry raised the recent spat near the Paracel Islands during brief remarks to reporters at the State Department on Monday, before a wide-ranging meeting covering the various aspects of the Singapore-US relationship.

His week-long visit to Washington comes hot on the heels of an ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting where the South China Sea issue topped the agenda.

"We (ASEAN ministers) do not want tension. We want a code of conduct to be progressed with.

"We need a situation where parties resolve their disputes and differences in a way that's acceptable to all," Mr Shanmugam said.

Similarly, Mr Kerry reiterated US concerns about the showdown between Chinese and Vietnamese ships over a Chinese oil rig deployed near the disputed Paracels.

"All nations that are engaged in navigation and traffic within the South China Sea, the East China Sea are deeply concerned about this aggressive act," he said.

"We want to see a code of conduct created; we want to see this resolved peacefully through the Law of the Sea, through arbitration, through any other means, but not direct confrontation and aggressive action."

Mr Kerry, who spoke to China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi over the phone on Monday, described Beijing's deployment of the oil rig and ships as "provocative".

The Chinese Foreign Ministry denied that China was the guilty party and faulted the US for encouraging such behaviour instead.

"We expect the US to reflect on its acts. If it indeed expects the Pacific Ocean to be pacific, it should think what role it can play in maintaining regional peace and stability," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said.

Both Singapore and the US were eager to not allow the issue to dominate the day's proceedings in Washington.

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