ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
South China Sea agreement reached
“We have reached agreement at the senior officials’ meeting of Asean countries and China, on the guidelines of implementation on the DOC,” China’s assistant foreign minister, Liu Zhenmin, said, referring to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
The declaration is aimed at affirming the preparedness of Asean member countries and China to seek a peaceful settlement to their territorial disputes in the area.
“This is an important milestone document for cooperation among China and Asean countries,” Liu told reporters on the sidelines of a forum between Asean foreign ministers and other regional powers in Bali.
China, Taiwan and four members of Asean — the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam— have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“We have conducted constructive and extensive consultation on the implementation of the DOC, including on the finalization of the guidelines,” said Vietnam’s senior official meeting leader, Pham Quang Vinh. “We work together on the common objective of promoting peace and stability, mutual trust, cooperation and confidence in the area.”
According to Indonesian officials, earlier drafts created a context for future rules on marine environmental protection, scientific research, safety of navigation and communication, search and rescue and combating transnational crime, but did not address drilling for resources. The South China Sea is believed to be rich in oil and gas fields.
“We think that we have some discussion on the way forward and follow-up activities, including cooperation activities in the area,” Vinh said.
Liu said the guidelines would be submitted to foreign ministers for final approval today.
China will host the next dialogue later this year, but no clear deadline is set on when the guidelines will transform into a formal code of conduct.
In recent months, China has been squaring off with the Philippines and Vietnam on what each says are intrusions into the other’s territorial waters.
The South China Sea dispute was expected to take center stage at the Asean meetings this week, but China has long opposed what it calls other countries inserting themselves in bilateral disputes.
With US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton due in Bali today, China’s state newspaper, the People’s Daily, reiterated Beijing’s disapproval of such meddling.
“This doesn’t mean China is in the wrong, and certainly doesn’t mean China is afraid of anything,” it said. “We maintain this position simply to prevent the issue from expanding or becoming more complicated.”
But tension appeared bound to rise in the region as five Philippine lawmakers flew to an island in the disputed Spratly chain despite warnings from China.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila criticized the trip in a statement on Tuesday, saying it served no purpose “but to undermine peace and stability in the region and sabotage the China-Philippines relationship.”
Taiwan warned on Tuesday that China’s military threat against it was bigger than ever despite three years of efforts by Taipei to pursue detente with the mainland.
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