Skip to main content

U.S., China differences over Asia territorial disputes on sharp display

By Jim Sciutto, CNN
May 16, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui, expressed opposing views of who is to blame for the broadening tensions.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui, expressed opposing views of who is to blame for the broadening tensions.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Territorial disputes over islands in Asia are boiling over into violence
  • Key U.S., Chinese military leaders hold frank private talks
  • One issue involves standoff between China and Vietnam
  • The U.S. encourages all sides to resolve their disputes diplomatically

(CNN) -- The United States and China put on sharp display Thursday their continuing differences over territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas, disputes that are now boiling over into violence.

In a joint news conference at the Pentagon, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui, described their private discussions as "refreshingly frank" and "constructive" before expressing opposing views of who is to blame for the broadening tensions.

China and Vietnam are currently locked in a standoff after China installed an oil rig on an island in the Paracel chain (jointly claimed by the two countries), sparking protests in Vietnam, including violent attacks on Chinese and ethnic Chinese residents.

Fang said, "We do not make trouble but we are not afraid of trouble," adding "in matters of territory, our attitude is firm. We won't give an inch."

Anti-China riots in Vietnam
China looms large over Obama trip
Was China target of U.S.-Philippines pact?

Dempsey countered, "We have to acknowledge there are territorial disputes," including "what exactly is the status quo and who is seeking to change it."

It was a veiled reference to Washington's position that Beijing is attempting to change the status quo by more aggressively seeking to establish control over numerous island chains simultaneously claimed by China and several South East Asia nations.

In addition to the current standoff between China and Vietnam, China and Japan both claim sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, while China and the Philippines are competing for control over several small land formations, such as the Scarborough Shoal.

On his recent trip to Asia, President Barack Obama announced a new military base access agreement with the Philippines.

The United States says it takes no position on sovereignty but encourages all sides to resolve the disputes through diplomacy.

In response to China's installation of the oil rig in the Paracel Islands, the State Department released a statement this week saying, "This unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region."

Despite the differences that exist over these issues, Dempsey announced that China would participate in the bi-annual Rim of Pacific naval exercise that takes place in Hawaii.

Dempsey also announced a secure video conference link between him and Fang will be established later this year.

CNN's Jamie Crawford contributed to this story.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0857 GMT (1657 HKT)
Chinese students show a handmade red ribbon one day ahead of the the World AIDS Day, at a school in Hanshan, east China's Anhui province on November 30, 2009.
Over 200 Chinese villagers in Sichuan province have signed a petition to banish a HIV-positive eight-year-old boy, state media reported.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
A Chinese couple allegedly threw hot water on a flight attendant and threatened to blow up the plane, forcing the Nanjing-bound plane to turn back to Bangkok.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 0503 GMT (1303 HKT)
China's 1.3 billion citizens may soon find it much harder to belt out their national anthem at will.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Like Beijing today, Los Angeles in the last century went through its own smog crisis. The city's mayor says LA's experience delivers valuable lessons.
December 6, 2014 -- Updated 0542 GMT (1342 HKT)
At the height of his power, Zhou Yongkang controlled China's police, spy agencies and courts. Now, he's under arrest.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0826 GMT (1626 HKT)
China says it will end organ transplants from executed prisoners but tradition means that donors are unlikely to make up the shortfall.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 0648 GMT (1448 HKT)
China's skylines could look a lot more uniform in the years to come, if a statement by a top Beijing official is to believed.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 0855 GMT (1655 HKT)
Despite an anti-corruption drive, China's position on an international corruption index has deteriorated in the past 12 months.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1201 GMT (2001 HKT)
A daring cross-border raid by one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's associates has -- so far -- yet to sour Sino-Russian relations.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
A 24-hour Taipei bookstore is a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
ADVERTISEMENT