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Terrorism & Security

China, US calm regional tensions at ASEAN defense conference

China-US defense chiefs met Tuesday for the first time since Beijing severed links earlier this year. The nations worked to ease tensions over a string of recent maritime disputes in East Asia.

By Correspondent / October 13, 2010

China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (r.) and US Defense Secretary Robert Gates pose for a photo before their meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct. 11.

Doan Ky Thanh/Reuters


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China's defense chief met Tuesday with his counterparts from Japan and the United States, as the nations worked to ease tensions over a string of recent maritime disputes in East Asia.

Yet in a sign that tensions remain palpable and that the US sees the region as a vital security interest, a US-led multinational naval exercise focused on stopping the transfer of WMDs got underway off the coast of South Korea on Wednesday. China's nonparticipation in the exercises comes just days after Beijing pointedly did not invite the US to naval exercises it held in the Yellow Sea with Australia's Navy.

Ten naval vessels from the US, Japan, and South Korea, as well as aircraft from Australia, are involved in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) exercise, which a South Korean official said "practices how to stop and search ships suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction," according to Seoul-based Yonhap News. South Korea became a full PSI member in May after the sinking of its naval corvette the Cheonan, which it blamed on North Korea.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Tuesday called upon all actors in the region to respect the laws of the sea, which protect travel through international waters.

“Competing claims should be settled peacefully, without force or coercion, through collaborative diplomatic processes, and in keeping with customary international law," Mr. Gates told defense ministers gathered in Vietnam for a meeting of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus eight countries including Russia, China, and the United States.

Downplaying aggression

But The New York Times notes that Gates also spoke diplomatically, avoiding any mention of China as an aggressor and saying that “the United States does not take sides on competing territorial claims, such as those in the South China Sea.”


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