NUSA DUA, Indonesia - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday called on rivals in the disputed South China Sea to back up territorial claims with legal evidence -- a challenge to China's declaration of sovereignty over vast stretches of the region.
"We also call on all parties to clarify their claims in the South China Sea in terms consistent with customary international law," Clinton said in remarks at Asia's largest security conference."Claims to maritime space in the South China Sea should be derived solely from legitimate claims to land features," Clinton said.
The South China Sea row has taken center stage at this week's meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum on the Indonesian island of Bali, where the United States, China and Southeast Asian nations have discussed the future of the potentially resource-rich region.
China, Taiwan, and four ASEAN members -- the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam -- all claim territory in the South China Sea, while Washington has irritated Beijing by declaring it also has a national interest at stake in ensuring freedom of navigation and trade.