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South China Sea dispute: US calls for diplomatic process

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WASHINGTON (PTI): The United States has asked for a collaborative diplomatic process on resolving the disputes related to the South China Sea, amid reports of the Chinese Navy confronting an Indian Navy vessel off the coast of Vietnam in late July.

“We support a collaborative diplomatic process by all claimants to resolve their disputes. I would just stress that we want a collaborative diplomatic process there,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

The US is certainly aware of the media reports on an alleged encounter between Indian and Chinese naval vessels, he said.

“You know, obviously refer to the relevant Indian or Chinese officials for details. I would just note that the government of India has publicly denied that there was any sort of confrontation,” Toner said.

Earlier in the day, the Pentagon said it was unaware of the reported incident of Indian Navy vessel INS Airavat been warned by the Chinese Navy off the coast of Vietnam against entering “Chinese waters” on July 22.

“I do not know anything about that particular confrontation,” Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan told reporters during an off-camera news conference.

“Generally we have said that there are many nations that operate through international waters in the South China Sea.

“We recognise that there are disputes amongst countries in that region and it is our desire one to recognise the right of passage to those waters, but more important that those conflicts, those confrontation be resolved peacefully so there aren't any misunderstanding or things that leads us to injuries or deaths,” Lapan said.

According to London based Financial Times daily, a Chinese warship confronted INS Airavat shortly after it left Vietnamese waters in late July in the first such reported encounter between the Navies of the two countries in the disputed South China Sea.

The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, however, has sought to downplay the incident.

“The Indian Naval vessel, INS Airavat paid a friendly visit to Vietnam between 19 and 28 July 2011,” it said, adding “there was no confrontation involving the INS Airavat.”


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