BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed China and Southeast Asian nations on Monday to make progress on a plan to ease tensions in the South China Sea, reminding the region that Washington had national interests at stake in the disputes.
Kerry, who made the comments as he arrived in Brunei for a regional security meeting, was speaking a day after China said it would hold formal discussions with Southeast Asian nations over the maritime disputes later this year.
While marking a move forward, the talks are not seen as a major breakthrough in protracted efforts to bring China into a binding agreement over the energy-rich ocean, where Beijing's assertive claims have sparked rising tensions.
"We have a strong interest in the manner in which the disputes of the South China Sea are addressed, and in the conduct of the parties," Kerry said in opening remarks at the conference in the oil-rich sultanate.
"We very much hope to see progress soon on a substantive code of conduct in order to help ensure stability in this vital region."