Obama to China: Follow int’l law | Global News

Obama to China: Follow int’l law

01:11 AM May 25, 2016

HANOI—US President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for territorial disputes in the South China Sea to be resolved peacefully and not through bullying as Vietnam balks at Chinese actions in the bitterly contested waters.

“Big nations should not bully smaller ones, disputes should be resolved peacefully,” Obama told an audience in Hanoi, referring to the disputed maritime region.

His remarks won loud applause from more than 2,000 delegates including top Vietnamese leaders.

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Washington and Hanoi have been drawn closer together through their mutual concern at Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in the strategic waterway sea, through which $5 trillion in shipborne trade passes each year.

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China, which claims almost all the South China Sea, has rattled neighbors with a series of reclamation and construction projects—including airstrips—on reefs and islets.

Vietnam and four other countries—the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan—also have claims to parts of the sea.

READ: US strike group patrolling in South China Sea visits PH

Freedom to fly, sail

The United States takes no position on the competing territorial claims but asserts freedom of navigation and flights in the sea and has sent warships near Chinese-held islets.

“As we go forward, the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and we will support the right of all countries to do the same,” Obama said.

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On Monday, Obama announced that he was scrapping a Cold War-era ban on weapons sales to Vietnam, a move seen as a major boost for Hanoi as it tries to bolster its defenses against its giant northern neighbor.

“Vietnam will have greater access to the military equipment you need to ensure your security,” Obama told delegates, adding the United States would continue to train Vietnam’s Coast Guard to “enhance maritime capabilities.”

‘A very poor lie’

In Beijing, Chinese state media on Tuesday slammed the lifting of a decades-old US arms embargo against Vietnam, saying the move was aimed at China and calling Obama’s assurances to the contrary “a very poor lie.”

Obama announced the end of the 41-year-old ban on weapons sales to Hanoi, as Washington and Beijing jockey for influence in Asia and tensions mount in the strategically important South China Sea.

The lifting of the arms embargo “was not based on China,” Obama said, but part of normalizing ties with its former enemy.

China’s Global Times newspaper, which hews closely to the position of the ruling Communist Party, retorted on Tuesday that Obama’s comment was “a very poor lie” and exacerbated “the strategic antagonism between Washington and Beijing.”

According to the newspaper, Obama’s “ultimate goal” was to cement US dominance in the area and that the United States was “taking advantage of Vietnam to stir up more troubles in the South China Sea.”

READ: Hague ruling may lead to US, China power play

3 nets

Similarly the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which includes Vietnam but not China, was one of “three nets that the US is knitting around China—ideology, security, economy and trade,” the paper added.

The stance was echoed on the front page of China Daily, which is published by the government and whose front-page headline said the United States was charting a “clear course aimed at containing China.”

In an editorial, the daily said that the move risked “turning the region into a tinderbox of conflicts.”

“The former bitter foes have turned into friends and are seeking to boost their commercial, military and political relations,” the editorial said, adding the move showed “there are no eternal allies or perpetual enemies, only eternal and perpetual interests.”

Double-faced stand

Earlier, China said it welcomed the Obama administration’s decision to lift an arms embargo on Vietnam, even though Beijing is apparently displeased to see warming relations between its southern neighbor and chief regional rival.

Asked about the move, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said that “as a neighboring country, we would be happy to see Vietnam develop normal and friendly cooperative relationships with all other countries, including the United States.”

“And we hope those normal and friendly relationships are conducive to regional stability and development,” Hua Chunying told reporters at a regularly scheduled news conference on Monday.

Such embargoes are “a product of the Cold War, and should not have existed,” Hua said.

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She added that China hoped similar arms bans would also be lifted, a possible reference to the continuing weapons embargo imposed by the United States and the European Union following China’s bloody military crackdown on prodemocracy demonstrations centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.  Reports from AFP and AP

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TAGS: Barack Obama, China, Features, Global Nation, West Philippine Sea

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