US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged China to end provocative land reclamation projects in the South China Sea and work out effective resolutions to territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors that have ratcheted up tensions in some of the world's busiest commercial sea lanes. Speaking at a Southeast Asian regional security forum today, Kerry told foreign ministers of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that the US shares their desire for negotiated settlements to contested claims. A senior US official says Kerry had earlier made a blunt case for easing tensions in a closed-door meeting with China's foreign minister.
The US "shares the frequently expressed desire of ASEAN members to preserve the peace and stability of the South China Sea," Kerry told the ministers. "We want to ensure the security of critical sea lanes and fishing grounds, and we want to see that disputes in the area are managed peacefully and on the basis of international law." Chinese land reclamation in contested waters has irked Southeast Asian nations who, like the US, want China to stop. China rejects any US involvement and its foreign minister told reporters yesterday that all of Beijing's activities are in Chinese territory and there should be no "double standards" on the issue. (Read more South China Sea stories.)