US gathers Korean support over South China Sea tensions

Defense chief Ashton Carter reaffirms military ties with South Korea on first leg of Asia-Pacific tour

US gathers Korean support over South China Sea tensions

World Bulletin / News Desk

The United States appeared to have South Korea’s backing Monday amid a row with China over Beijing’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea.

The Korea Times reported Defense Secretary Ashton Carter as stopping in Seoul for talks with his South Korean counterpart -- the first leg in an eight-day tour of the region - Monday.

Carter’s arrival came less than a week after an American warship passed within 22 nautical kilometers (12 nautical miles) of a man-made Chinese island, prompting a call from Beijing for the U.S. to end such provocative behavior.

On his way to South Korea, Carter had told reporters that “the attention to disputed claims in the South China Sea, the prominence of those disputes, is having the effect of causing many countries in the region to want to intensify their security cooperation with the United States.”

Seoul has a military relationship with the U.S. that was cemented during the 1950-53 Korean War -- indeed Washington still holds wartime operational control over South Korea and has nearly 30,000 military personnel based on the peninsula.

While China previously fought on the side of North Korea, and maintains ties with Pyongyang, the South has been fast improving its own relations with Beijing.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye over the weekend signaled a tightening economic bond and cooperation on the North’s illegal nuclear ambitions.

But as this complicated triangle continues to develop, the South’s Defense Minister Han Min-koo risked siding with the U.S. when he insisted Monday that freedom of navigation and flight should be guaranteed in the South China Sea.

During a news briefing, Han said that any conflict should be handled in line with the “framework of international law.”

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Kasım 2015, 14:55