Kerry vows US support for SKorea, urges better ties with Japan

The Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, looks at South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, right, delivering a speech Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Seoul, South Korea. Kerry is visiting South Korea, China, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates on a seven-day trip. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, Pool)

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"We have made a lot of efforts to stabilize the relationship between Korea and Japan, but unfortunately, during the past few months, some Japanese political leaders have made a lot of historically incorrect remarks," Yun said. "And so these revisionist remarks, as long as they last, it will (make it) difficult to build trust between our countries. These leaders must look at history as it is and they must be sincere."

Kerry was in Seoul on the first leg of his fifth trip to Asia in the past year, to demonstrate the Obama administration's commitment to its stated priority of "rebalancing" U.S. foreign policy to Asia. He arrived in South Korea just hours after the White House announced that President Barack Obama would visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in the spring. In China, Kerry will raise longstanding U.S. concerns about Chinese behavior, according to officials traveling with him.

U.S. diplomats have cited a litany of actions that China has taken recently that affect what they say is American national interest in freedom of navigation and maritime safety in the resource-rich waters of the South China Sea that are dotted with reefs and islands subject to multiple disputes involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Those have included restricting access to a contested reef and imposing fishing regulations in disputed waters. The U.S. has also warned China that it should not declare an Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ, over any part of the South China Sea.

A declared Chinese ADIZ over contested areas in the East China Sea has already drawn harsh criticism from the U.S. and its allies.

The U.S. has been urging China and the Association of South East Asian Nations to agree to a binding code of conduct for behavior in the South China Sea for years.

China has been reluctant to negotiate with ASEAN as a whole, and has fiercely rejected U.S. allegations that it is using vague territorial claims to gradually assert control over the disputed areas. On Saturday, China's foreign ministry said in a statement that some U.S. officials' remarks were not constructive and opined that "playing up tensions" was not conducive to maintaining peace and stability.

After visiting Beijing, Kerry will raise the code of conduct issue again in Indonesia when he meets with the ASEAN secretary general at the bloc's headquarters in Jakarta.

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