Clinton in China visit, Beijing pledges free movement in tense Sea
China promised Wednesday to ensure freedom of navigation in the tense South China Sea and told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton it was willing to work on a code of conduct to manage disputes.
After weeks of escalating tensions in the strategic sea and a war of words between Washington and Beijing, the Pacific powers toned down the rhetoric and pledged cooperation as Clinton met with most of China's top leadership.
"Freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is assured," China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a rare joint news conference with Clinton inside the imposing Great Hall of the People.
"For China and our neighboring countries, the South China Sea is really a lifeline for exchanges, trade and commerce. There is no issue currently in this area, nor will there ever be issues in that area in the future," he said.
The United States has rallied behind the Southeast Asian nations and sharply criticized Beijing's recent establishment of a remote garrison in the South China Sea, through which half of the world's cargo flows.
Yang said that China had "plentiful historical and jurisprudential evidence" for its claims to virtually all of the South China Sea, a position that has led Beijing to consider much of the disputed areas to be within its own waters.