South China Sea, Chinese statesmanship pays

CHINESE policy of engaging all direct or indirect parties to the issue of South China Sea has started paying dividends as Washington has agreed with Beijing that the time has come to move away from the tensions and to turn the page. After a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Vientiane, US Secretary of State John Kerry declared that he will encourage the Philippines to pursue dialogue and negotiation with China in their dispute.
This positive change in the policy of the United States augurs well as previously there were apprehensions that the way Washington is handling the issue might lead to some unfortunate incident. The South China Sea issue was fast moving towards a major theatre of possible war because of militarisation by the United States. These fears were not imaginary but real as the United States took a number of provocative measures despite ‘calm and peace’ policy of the Beijing. In January, the US sent a Navy destroyer through the South China Sea on a so-called freedom of navigation patrol, following a similar excursion last October. The American naval vessels passed within 12 nautical miles of contested islands that China controls. The US announced that its Navy, along with those of Japan and India, would be conducting joint exercises later this year in waters north of the Philippines. Vietnam and the Philippines have clashed with China over specks of reef and rock in the South China Sea. Apart from all this, attempts were also made to put diplomatic and political pressure on China by getting a unilateral verdict by a UN body in a controversial case on the issue, which was boycotted by Beijing from the very beginning. However, despite all this, the Chinese leadership demonstrated superb statesmanship and as a result its policy of seeking peaceful settlement through dialogue is prevailing. It is hoped that if the United States genuinely took initiative to help resolve the issue through dialogue then it would be amicably settled within foreseeable future.

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