Vietnam, US in joint peace call in South China Sea

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Vietnam and the United States have jointly called for freedom of navigation and rejected the use of force in the East Sea, amid simmering tensions between Beijing and its neighbors.

After talks in Washington, the two countries said that "the maintenance of peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is in the common interests of the international community."

"All territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved through a collaborative, diplomatic process without coercion or the use of force," the two countries said in a joint statement.

Disputes have flared in recent weeks in the East Sea (also known as South China Sea), with Vietnam protesting against Chinese ships' cutting of the exploration cables of two Vietnamese survey ships in Vietnam's territorial waters.

China staged three-days military exercises in the East Sea, which state media said was aimed at boosting the country's offshore maritime patrol force.

"The US side reiterated that troubling incidents in recent months do not foster peace and stability within the region," the statement said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a July 2010 visit to Vietnam, said that the United States had a vital national interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

China said Tuesday that it would not resort to the use of force in the East Sea and urged other countries to "do more for peace and stability in the region."

In the statement, the United States and Vietnam threw their support for talks under the aegis of a 2002 agreement between China and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in which the two sides pledged to work on a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

China and ASEAN have done little in the intervening nine years to reach the code. Diplomats say that the Chinese appear to favor one-on-one talks with each nation, fearing that ASEAN would gang up on them in a group setting.

Senator Jim Webb a former combat Marine in Vietnam, said at a conference Monday that the United States needed to be firmer on disputes in the East Sea. The United States officially does not take a position on disputes to which it is not party.

President Barack Obama's administration has put a focus on building ties with nations in Southeast Asia and has enthusiastically welcomed the growing relationship with Vietnam.

The annual US-Vietnam talks involved Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, and Vice Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

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