Coun­try pushes for code at sea

Beijing pledges $20b in loans to boost South­east Asian con­nec­tiv­ity

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO YI­NAN and ZHAO YANRONG in Nay Pyi Taw

China will push for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a code of con­duct for the South China Sea — a doc­u­ment that will lessen the risk of es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions in the area — but ex­perts said such an agree­ment faces ob­sta­cles, at least in the short term.

Premier Li Ke­qiang reaf­firmed China’s re­solve to safe­guard ter­ri­to­rial sovereignty at a se­ries of three re­gional meet­ings in Nay Pyi Taw, Myan­mar, on Thurs­day, say­ing the coun­try is will­ing to ad­here to the code, which has been un­der dis­cus­sion for more than a decade.

Lead­ers from the Philip­pines and Viet­nam, coun­tries that have seen mar­itime ten­sions with China rise, also at­tended the meet­ings.

“China and South­east Asian coun­tries are close neigh­bors with common in­ter­ests and di­ver­si­fied con­cerns. It is in­evitable — not strange at all — that dif­fer­ences emerge among us, but those dif­fer­ences will not af­fect the gen­eral sta­bil­ity in the South China Sea,” Li said at the East Asia sum­mit. “I be­lieve that as long as we treat each other with sin­cer­ity and seek common ground while ac­knowl­edg­ing dif­fer­ences, there will be no in­sur­mount­able ob­sta­cles that will stand in our way,” Li said.

Li said China’s pol­icy of build­ing part­ner­ships with its neigh­bors is sin­cere and con­sis­tent, and the sit­u­a­tion in the South China Sea has been sta­ble as free­dom and safety of nav­i­ga­tion is en­sured.

For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi said last year that the code should re­flect “con­sen­sus through ne­go­ti­a­tions” and “elim­i­na­tion of in­ter­fer­ence”, in­di­cat­ing that mar­itime is­sues should be left to the par­ties di­rectly in­volved to sort out through di­a­logue.

The dec­la­ra­tion on the Con­duct of Par­ties in the South China Sea was signed in 2002, in which all sig­na­to­ries agreed to work out a code of con­duct to guide fu­ture ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion. But limited progress has been made in draft­ing the code since then.

In a bid to reach long-last­ing peace in the re­gion, Li pledged to speed up ne­go­ti­a­tions on a co­op­er­a­tion treaty.

China also agreed to es­tab­lish a hot­line for joint search and res­cue ef­forts at sea as well as a hot­line for se­nior of­fi­cials.

Wu Shi­cun, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional In­sti­tute for South China Sea Stud­ies, said the ne­go­ti­a­tion of the code has gone on for more than 10 years be­cause of dif­fer­ent opin­ions re­gard­ing how the doc­u­ment will be drafted and whether it will al­low third-party in­ter­ven­tion.

Lu Jian­ren, the chief re­searcher of Sino-ASEAN re­la­tions at Guangxi Univer­sity, said the im­por­tance of the code lies in the fact that it rules out the use of mil­i­tary force as a means to re­solve is­sues and that no party is al­lowed to take fur­ther ac­tion to es­ca­late ten­sion.Also at Thurs­day’s sum­mit, China promised more loans and eco­nomic aid to South­east Asia.

China will pro­vide $10 bil­lion in pref­er­en­tial loans to ASEAN coun­tries and another de­vel­op­ment loan of $10 bil­lion specif­i­cally for in­fra­struc­ture.China also started on projects for the sec­ond phase of the Chi­naASEAN In­vest­ment Co­op­er­a­tion Fund, which to­tals $3 bil­lion.

En­gi­neers have be­gun pre­lim­i­nary work on a rail net­work, which will start in Kun­ming, Yun­nan prov­ince, and con­nect Laos, Viet­nam, Cam­bo­dia, Myan­mar, Thai­land, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore.

Kavi Chongkit­ta­vorn, se­nior fel­low at the In­sti­tute of Se­cu­rity and In­ter­na­tional Study in Thai­land, said China and ASEAN were forg­ing ever closer ties and de­spite dif­fer­ences there are ar­eas of grow­ing co­op­er­a­tion.

“Eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist for each party,” he said.

Wang Xu in Beijing con­trib­uted to this story. Con­tact the writ­ers at zhaoy­i­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn and zhaoy­an­rong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

CHRISTOPHE AR­CHAM­BAULT /AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE

South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Ge­un­hye (left) speaks with Myan­mar Pres­i­dent Thein Sein, as Chi­nese Prime Min­is­ter Li Ke­qiang speaks with Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak dur­ing the 17th ASEAN Plus Three Sum­mit on Thurs­day.

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