WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will discuss tensions in the South China Sea during a sprawling trip through the Asia-Pacific that will include stops in China and Russia, the State Department said Tuesday.
The trip, which includes stops in six countries, underscores the Obama administration's heightened focus on Asia, an economically booming region that has sought deeper U.S. ties.
Clinton starts off in the remote Cook Islands for talks Friday with Pacific islands leaders. She then travels to Indonesia, China, Brunei, and becomes the first U.S. secretary of state to visit East Timor.
Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday she expects the South China Sea to be discussed on several of the stops. The tiny sultanate of Brunei is among the six claimant nations, the largest being China. Although not a claimant itself, Indonesia has been at the forefront of efforts by Southeast Asian nations to forge with China a code of conduct for managing the disputes.
"We don't want to see the disputes in the South China Sea or anywhere else settled by intimidation, by force. We want to see them settled at the negotiating table," Nuland said at a news conference.
The U.S. is not a claimant but says it has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and security. It has supported the Southeast Asian nations' attempts to negotiate collectively with China, and has criticized China's recent establishment of a municipality and military garrison on a remote island to consolidate its expansive and disputed territorial claims.
On her final stop, Clinton heads to Vladivostok, Russia, to lead the U.S. delegation at the annual summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on Sept. 8-9, to discuss trade liberalization and food security.