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John Kerry Faces Chinese Stonewall In South China Sea Talks

China looks set to keep control of situation in South China Sea, despite Secretary of State John Kerry's best efforts.
Posted at 2:05 PM, Aug 10, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry, undaunted by criticism of his push for a cease-fire in Gaza, is looking to play peacemaker again — this time in the South China Sea. 

Kerry attended a meeting in Myanmar between members of the Association of Southeast Nations —or ASEAN — and China, hoping to settle some disagreements over who owns what in the nearby waters. (Video via CCTV)

The South China Sea has been the center of longstanding tensions in the region, with territorial disputes between China and Vietnam, as well as other Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan, playing out over decades. (Video via CNN)

But despite his best intentions, it didn't take long for Kerry to find himself in hot water again. 

BBC: "Even the body language was wrong: the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was more than half an hour late for his meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Mr. Wang did not hide his annoyance." 

As The Wall Street Journal reports, Kerry lent his support to a proposal from the Philippines that looked to put a stop to "provocative acts," and "urges that disputes be resolved through arbitration under international law."

Yi's discontent with Kerry's tardiness mirrored his government's dissatisfcation with the U.S.-backed proposal, as echoed in an opinion peace in China's state-run news agency Xinhua.

"By stoking the flames, Washington is further emboldening countries like the Philippines and Vietnam to take a hard-line stance against China, raising suspicion over the real intention of the United States and [making] an amicable solution more difficult to reach."

Among those "provocative acts" the proposal referred to was the controversial deployment of an oil platform by China in waters claimed by Vietnam this past spring, which it later removed. (Video via ABC Australia)

That prompted anti-China demonstrations in Vietnam, with protesters burning Chinese factories, leading to deadly riots. (Video via Financial Times)

China's claims on territory in the South China Sea have been seen by many as a way for the country to assert its growing global influence. 

As an analyst who spoke to Deutsche Welle said, "The Chinese repeat to themselves that they don't have to heed international law when it comes to such claims. ... It's all part of the message that China is a power to be reckoned with and has a right to prosecute its claims on territorial issues."

That attitude seems to be reflected in China's rejection of the U.S.-backed plan. The country's officials say they would rather continue talks with ASEAN countries.