POSTED: 11:25 a.m. HST, Jul 12, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 11:40 a.m. HST, Jul 12, 2012
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia >> The Obama administration pressed Beijing on Thursday to accept a code of conduct for resolving territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea, a difficult U.S. mediation effort that has faced resistance from the communist government — although it has endeared the U.S. to once-hostile countries in Southeast Asia.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' annual conference.
Sitting across from each other at a long table in a grand hall with chandeliers, Clinton stressed the different ways Washington and Beijing are cooperating. Yang spoke of building an even closer U.S.-Chinese relationship. Neither side spoke about the South China Sea while reporters were allowed in the room.
Several Asian governments have expressed worry about China's expansive maritime claims. Tensions have threatened to boil over in recent months, with a standoff between Chinese and Philippine ships and sharp disagreements between China and Vietnam.
China claims virtually the entire area and has created an entirely new city to administer it, sparking deep concern from rival claimants. The sea hosts about a third of the world's cargo traffic, has rich fishing grounds and is believed to store vast oil and gas reserves.
"The United States has no territorial claims there and we do not take sides in disputes about territorial or maritime boundaries," Clinton told foreign ministers gathered in Cambodia's capital. "But we do have an interest in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea."