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Hillary Clinton Pushes for Diplomacy in South China Sea

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently began a six-nation tour of Asia, visiting Indonesia yesterday and China today. On the agenda: promoting peaceful diplomatic solutions in the Asian Game of Thrones. The Associated Press reports:

“It is time for diplomacy,” she said. “We have the East Asia Summit coming up. This should be the goal that diplomacy pursues to try to attain agreement . . . on a robust code of conduct to begin to try to literally calm the waters and enable people to work together toward better outcomes.”

This is a sensible idea that has been backed up by recent American policy. The U.S. has been pushing for a multilateral code of conduct agreed upon by the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). China, which is not an ASEAN member, has so far resisted these efforts, preferring bilateral negotiations, where it can exert more influence.

The U.S. position, that the countries with conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea should all reach an agreement on how to proceed, is the only one that can guarantee peace in the region. Peace will also depend on figuring out how to allow countries to exploit the region’s resources (in particular, the vast, untapped undersea oil and gas resources) before a final territorial solution is reached.

In the middle of a close-fought election campaign, there are not very many nonpartisan issues out there. But Secretary Clinton is speaking for the United States in Asia, and it is likely that her successor, whatever his or her party, will be repeating the same message.

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