US National Security Adviser Susan Rice told Chinese officials that countries should work to reduce tensions in the South China Sea, but that the US would continue to carry out the military operations there that have angered Beijing, a senior US government official said today.
Rice told China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Yang Jiechi, and top general Fan Changlong in meetings in Beijing yesterday that the US hoped a recent international tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea would spur negotiations in the region toward eventually resolving long-standing territorial disputes, the official said.
Rice is the highest-level White House official to visit China since the July 12 ruling that invalidated Beijing’s vast claims in the South China Sea, handing a victory to the Philippines, a US ally.
In meetings with Yang and Fan, Rice said all countries should “avoid taking actions that raise tensions and could raise the risks of miscalculation” in the South China Sea, said the official, who wasn’t authorised to comment publicly.
She did not discuss the topic with President Xi Jinping when they met, the official said.
Rice also said the US would continue conducting military operations in the South China Sea. “Those operations are lawful. They will continue, they’ve been long standing, they’ve been designed to impart confidence and stability,” the official said, describing the stance that Rice made in her meetings.
The US has said such operations are intended to protect freedom of navigation. China has described such operations as “heavy-handed intervention” in the South China Sea.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Fan, the general, told Rice that China opposed the tribunal’s ruling and “would continue to provide strong backing to safeguarding China’s national territorial sovereignty and security.”