South China Sea should not hamper Sino-U.S. ties: experts

Chinese President Xi Jinping pays a state visit to the U.S. from Tuesday to Friday — a trip U.S. Congressman Rick Larsen says, is “very significant and timely”.

“You are gonna have two presidents with two very aggressive agendas having an opportunity to talk one on one about these very important issues.”

Larsen describes the U.S.-China relationship as “a story of hopes and hurdles.”

He says the two countries can continue to work together on major global issues like climate change, but there are also some hurdles in the relationship, including cyber security and tensions in the South China Sea.

“The two leaders need to have enough of a relationship to be able to talk frankly about the challenges that the countries face together.”

Other analysts also agree that the upcoming meeting between the two presidents could help resolve misunderstanding that remains between China and the U.S.

SOUNDBITE(ENGLISH): STEPHEN ORLINS, President of National Committee on U.S.-China Relations
“There is significant misunderstanding about Chinese policy in a number of areas, so the meetings will help at least strengthen the understanding, that would be true, the East China Sea, the Diaoyudao, the South China Sea, that would be true.”

China maintains it has undisputed sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and adjacent waters in the South China Sea, with strong historical evidence.

Since the 1970s, countries including the Philippines and Vietnam have invaded and occupied islands and reefs in the area.

It was then the South China Sea became an issue.

U.S. analysts say the South China Sea issue is tough to resolve as it involves many different parties. They say China and the U.S. should work together to promote negotiation, and safeguard peace and stability in the region.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) KENNETH LIBERTHAL, Senior fellow, Brookings Institution:
“All around that region we need to get more of a focus on negotiation, on agreement, if not on the ultimate territorial issues at least on the principles and especially on the rules of conduct for activities in that region.”

Other analysts say the South China Sea is not and should not be an issue between China and the U.S.

China, as a de facto victim of the issue, is exercising restraint to maintain peace and stability in the waters, while the U.S., being an outsider, does not have any territorial dispute with China.

Henry Kissinger, a former U.S. secretary of state, says although tensions surrounding the South China Sea caused some hiccups in bilateral ties, he is still optimistic that the two countries could in the end find a way to fix it.

“I think the South China Sea issue is a practical issue in which China has security interests. We have commercial and security interests. And we must find a way of coming to agreement.”

Observers say, China and the U.S. need to maintain long-term perspective to manage differences, and, if they can negotiate every whirlpool issue like this, they will navigate their relationship into much wider waters.

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