US seeks to reduce tensions in South China Sea

China and the Philippines have repositioned some ships stationed at a disputed South China Sea shoal, easing tensions that have been building up since April.

BEIJING - The United States will emphasise the importance of easing friction over competing claims in the South China Sea during regional talks in Cambodia next week, a US government official said Saturday.

The talks of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and regional powers including China will be attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the South China Sea likely to be high on the agenda.

Tensions have risen recently over territorial claims in the resource-rich waters amid a standoff between China and the Philippines at the Scarborough Shoal and between China and Vietnam over the Spratly and Paracel islands.

All parties must realise that "there is an enormous potential for developments that undermine the very confidence on which Asia prosperity is built", a US government official told reporters in Beijing.

"With the slowdown in Europe and some uncertainties on the recovery in the United States, it's clear that role of Asia is central," he added.

"The South China Sea issues are complicated by the fact that they stir intense nationalist sentiment in all of the countries involved."

Clinton, who paid an unannounced visit to Kabul Saturday, will attend a major development conference for Afghanistan in Japan Sunday, before travelling to Mongolia, Vietnam and Laos ahead of the talks in Cambodia.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighbouring countries.

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