U.S. firm on freedom of navigation in face of Chinese expansion – envoy

January 11, 2018 - 7:42 AM
US Ambassador Sung Y. Kim, seen here in file photo from the State Department.

MANILA, Philippines — The United States is doing “everything possible” to promote and protect freedom of navigation and freedom of flight in the Asia Pacific and is not “retreating and giving space to China,” Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Y. Kim said

“It’s no secret that China is continuing to expand,” Kim said in a television interview Wednesday.

“The challenge for America is how do you work with a growing expanding China so that the whole region can benefit from a constructive partnership with China,” he said.

He added that Washington would remain engaged in all aspects of trade and security in the region, but reiterated there has been no change on their position in the South China Sea, where there are existing territorial disputes between China and a number of Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines.

“This is not solely for the US but good for everybody,” Kim stressed. “So much trade goes through (the South China Sea).”

”If we don’t have freedom of navigation we will all suffer so we are (conducting) freedom of navigation exercises to make sure we promote those rights,” he added.

China and the Philippines are working on a bilateral consultative mechanism to discuss their disputes while the Asian giant and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have agreed to move forward on discussions on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

While not a claimant, Kim said the U.S. “cares very deeply about how the dispute is approached.”

”The dispute should be resolved peacefully and should be done according to international law and practices.”

Aside from the “very delicate situation” in the South China Sea, “the North Korean situation worries everybody not just for Philippines but for (the) broader region,” while 
terrorism was “spreading” as terror groups lose ground in the Middle East.

“These dangerous groups are looking for new places and we saw in Marawi that nobody is secure from infiltration.”