Sunday, August 5, 2012

China-US Tensions Rise Over South China Sea

BEIJING—China summoned a U.S. diplomat to refute a State Department accusation that Beijing is hampering diplomatic efforts to defuse long-simmering tensions over the disputed South China Sea.

The Foreign Ministry said on its website late Saturday that it summoned the U.S. deputy chief of mission in Beijing, Robert Wang, to present "strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition" to a U.S. statement on Friday. On Friday, the U.S. said China's recent decision to establish a military garrison in the South China Sea and elevate the administrative status of an island outpost in waters claimed by China, the Philippines and others risked further inflaming tension there.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing confirmed Mr. Wang met with Chinese officials on Saturday but declined to provide further details.

The latest tit-for-tat underscores how China, the U.S. and Southeast Asian nations remain far apart in resolving what has emerged as a possibly volatile flash point. The potentially mineral-rich waters, which are also home to key international trade routes, are claimed in whole by China and in part by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and others.

Renewed concern over the regional disputes comes as diplomats and officials from both the U.S. and China are working to smooth relations ahead of China's sensitive once-a-decade leadership transition beginning late this year and a U.S. presidential election in which Beijing's rise has emerged as a contentious talking point. Read More