South­east Asia Not Tak­ing South China Sea Thaw for Granted

Iran News - - ایران نیوز -

MANILA (Dis­patches) - South­east Asian na­tions will not take a rel­a­tive calm in the dis­pute over the South China Sea for granted, ac­cord­ing to a draft of a state­ment to be is­sued dur­ing a sum­mit meet­ing in Manila on Mon­day.

The state­ment will be is­sued af­ter a meet­ing be­tween China and the 10-mem­ber As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) in the Philip­pines cap­i­tal, a diplo­matic source said.

“While the sit­u­a­tion is calmer now, we can­not take the cur­rent progress for granted,” said the draft, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

“Im­por­tant that we co­op­er­ate to main­tain peace, sta­bil­ity, free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in and over-flight above the SCS (South China Sea), in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law. It is in our col­lec­tive in­ter­est to avoid mis­cal­cu­la­tions that could lead to es­ca­la­tion of ten­sions.”

Al­most all of the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest wa­ter­ways, is claimed by China. Tai­wan and four ASEAN na­tions - Malaysia, Viet­nam, the Philip­pines and Brunei - have com­pet­ing claims.

Lead­ers from China, the United States and seven other na­tions are join­ing ASEAN at its an­nual sum­mit.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said on Sun­day he was pre­pared to me­di­ate be­tween claimants to the dis­puted South China Sea.

Asked about his com­ments, Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Geng Shuang said that China up­held re­solv­ing the is­sue via talks with the coun­tries di­rectly in­volved and to up­hold the peace and sta­bil­ity of the South China Sea.

The sit­u­a­tion in the South China Sea was gen­er­ally sta­ble and head­ing in the right di­rec­tion with the joint efforts of China and ASEAN coun­tries, he said.

China has been an­gered in the past by free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion pa­trols in the South China Sea, and com­ments on the is­sue, by the United States which it sees as provoca­tive.

On Sun­day, Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte sug­gested that, de­spite their dif­fer­ences, the lead­ers should not dis­cuss the South China Sea.

“We have to be friends. The other hot­heads would like us to con­front China and the rest of the world on so many is­sues,” Duterte said at a busi­ness con­fer­ence.

“The South China Sea is bet­ter left un­touched. No­body can af­ford to go to war. It can ill-af­ford a vi­o­lent con­fronta­tion.”

China’s Premier Li Ke­qiang, speak­ing in Manila dur­ing a sum­mit with ASEAN mem­ber na­tions, said Bei­jing was “com­mit­ted to work­ing with ASEAN to be good neigh­bours, good friends and good part­ners, and to al­ways stand to­gether rain or shine.”

At the meet­ing’s for­mal open­ing on Mon­day, Duterte made no men­tion of the South China Sea and pointed to other trig­gers for a threat of vi­o­lence in the re­gion.

“Ter­ror­ism and vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism en­dan­ger the peace, sta­bil­ity, and se­cu­rity of our re­gion be­cause these threats know no bound­ary,” he said.

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