Territorial disputes over the sea threaten to turn every regional meeting into a tug-of-war between China's allies and critics. This round comes after China deployed a deep-sea oil rig for two months near islands claimed also by Vietnam. China's withdrawal of the rig in mid-July removed an irritant but left a legacy of anger and strained relations with Vietnam and raised questions among China's other neighbors about its long-term strategy. The U.S. and several Southeast Asian countries will be looking to calm tensions stoked by the rig and will push for a freeze in actions that change the status quo, officials say, such as seizing unoccupied islands and land reclamation. Chinese officials have already made clear they don't support the proposal. China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and resents what it sees as U.S. meddling in its affairs. The other claimants include the Philippines, which is a U.S. treaty ally, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.
Kerry has a variety of topics on his agenda, including the South China Sea and U.S.-Myanmar relations and the possibility for discussions on North Korea and Ukraine, if meetings with his counterparts from Russia and North Korea occur on the sidelines. The South China Sea is of tremendous strategic i...
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