The United States and China kicked off a new round of consultations on the Asia Pacific region in Hawaii on Saturday by broaching the flaring tensions in the South China Sea, a U.S. official said.
The first set of talks in the superpowers’ Asia Pacific push — agreed upon by U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao — came at the end of a difficult week for the two countries over the growing antagonism in the South China Sea between China and its neighbors.
In a statement after the talks, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell reported that they discussed the recent tensions between China, Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea and concerns over China’s growing military power:
“We want tensions to subside,” Campbell said. “We have a strong interest in the maintenance of peace and stability. And we are seeking a dialogue among all the key players.”
China has shown increasing assertiveness in its claim to the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas. Vietnam has accused Chinese boats of harassing a Vietnamese oil exploration ship in the region.
Campbell said the U.S. delegation stressed China’s military expansions have raised concerns, but hoped greater transparency and dialogue would help ease those concerns.
Earlier in the week, [China’s Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai] told foreign reporters in Beijing China had not provoked any incidents in the South China Sea and said if Washington wanted to play a role it should urge restraint on other claimants.
The two delegations also discussed North Korea and Campbell said he asked China to urge North Korea to deal responsibly and appropriately with South Korea without provocation.