China urges ASEAN states to re­ject out­side in­ter­fer­ence

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

MANILA: Bei­jing urged South­east Asian na­tions yes­ter­day to unite and “say no” to out­side forces seek­ing to in­ter­fere in the South China Sea dis­pute, in an ap­par­ent swipe at the United States ahead of a re­gional sum­mit. Chi­nese For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi made the state­ment in Manila where he hailed the “strong mo­men­tum” in im­prov­ing ties with the Philip­pines, a long­stand­ing Amer­i­can ally which has moved closer to China un­der Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte.

Wang’s visit came a week be­fore he was set to re­turn to Manila for a meet­ing of for­eign min­is­ters from the 10mem­ber As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) and its part­ners, which in­clude China and the United States. Wang said warm­ing re­la­tions be­tween Bei­jing and Manila had helped en­sure sta­bil­ity in the South China Sea, where ri­val claims have long made it one of Asia’s po­ten­tial mil­i­tary flash­points. “If there are still some non-re­gional forces or forces in the re­gion that don’t want to see sta­bil­ity in the South China Sea and they still want to stir up trou­ble in the South China Sea, we need to stand to­gether and say no to them to­gether,” Wang told re­porters. China claims nearly all of the strate­gi­cally vi­tal sea, even wa­ters ap­proach­ing the coasts of its neigh­bors. ASEAN mem­bers the Philip­pines, Viet­nam, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Tai­wan, claim parts of the sea. While the United States is not a claimant and says it takes no sides in the dis­putes, it has crit­i­cized what it has termed Chi­nese “mil­i­ta­riza­tion” of the sea. Wash­ing­ton has re­peat­edly sent war­ships close to Chi­nese-oc­cu­pied is­lands in the sea in re­cent years, trig­ger­ing an­gry re­sponses from Bei­jing. Duterte, a self-de­scribed so­cial­ist, has loos­ened his na­tion’s 70-year-old al­liance with the United States while look­ing to build stronger re­la­tions with China and Rus­sia.

Duterte has down­played the Philip­pines’ dis­pute with China, de­clin­ing to use a fa­vor­able rul­ing from a UN-backed tri­bunal last year on the is­sue to pres­sure Bei­jing. He has said bet­ter re­la­tions with China, fol­low­ing six years of tension un­der his pre­de­ces­sor who took a hard line with Bei­jing over the dis­pute, will gen­er­ate bil­lions of dol­lars in promised Chi­nese in­vest­ments and aid. Duterte said on Mon­day the Philip­pines and China were in talks for joint ex­plo­ration in the sea, which is be­lieved to sit atop vast oil and gas de­posits. Wang yes­ter­day pledged 20 mil­lion ren­minbi ($3 mil­lion) to help re­ha­bil­i­tate the war-torn south­ern Philip­pine city of Marawi, where a US-backed mil­i­tary of­fen­sive is seek­ing to flush out pro-Is­lamic State group mil­i­tants.

—AFP

MANILA: China’s For­eign Min­is­ter Wang Yi (L) shakes hand with Philip­pine For­eign Af­fairs sc­re­tary Alan Peter Cayetano af­ter sign­ing the Guest­book.

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