ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
China looks to cooperate with Asean in sea dispute
China is looking at cooperating with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in tapping natural resources of disputed areas in the South China Sea, the Chinese ambassador to Manila said.
At the sidelines of the first diplomatic reception hosted by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario in Makati City (Metro Manila) late on Monday, Liu Jianchao disclosed that China is open to discuss the issue on the contested Spratly Islands with President Benigno Aquino 3rd during his first state visit to China.
President Aquino’s visit to China is tentatively scheduled for May this year. “In particular, we can cooperate in this region [Asean] in exploring and developing the resources [there],” Liu said.
Asean groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“It’s going to be [a] wonderful arrangement for the time when we have dispute and, at the same time, [it will] benefit [the people] and also we can reduce the opportunity for source of all conflicts,” he added.
Liu said that China, like the Philippines, is also seeking a “well-measured settlement” of the Spratly issue.
“I am sure that we have the wisdom to keep the stability and peace in this region and at the same time, all of us will benefit from such a stable and peaceful region,” the Chinese envoy added.
The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea are a group of 750 islets, reefs and tolls that are all rich in oil and other minerals.
They are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei Darussalam, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
China and the Asean member-states, hoping to ensure a stable political situation in the South China Sea, signed the Declaration of the Code of Conduct in November 2002.
The non-binding edict is supposed to move up to a more binding code but sources said that Beijing was more inclined to conduct bilateral negotiations rather than multilateral dialogues. China hopes to gain more leverage from bilateral talks, a source said.
Liu said that China will continue to strengthen its relationship with the Asean member-states and even with the United States if it will be beneficial for ensuring political stability in the South China Sea.
Beijing, in the past, decried the “intrusion” of the United States in the Spratly dispute. It said that it does not welcome any third party in negotiations and that US presence will complicate the matter further.
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