Challenges we face are temporary
TIANJIN: China is confident that the conflicts at the South China Sea will not affect cooperation with Asean, says Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.
He said China had been insisting on negotiation and consultation with the countries that also claim sovereignty in the disputed waters, and emphasising on working with Asean to uphold safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
“The challenges we are facing now are only temporary. There are broad prospects in the cooperation between China and Asean,” he said.
Liu was speaking to reporters together with Thai Foreign Ministry deputy permanent secretary Noppadon Theppitak after co-chairing the China-Asean senior officials’ meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC) here.
China and several countries in South-East Asia, including Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam, assert overlapping claims on the resource-rich South China Sea.
Disputes have erupted with the claimants blaming each other for building military and civil facilities on the contested reefs.
Anti-China riots broke out in Vietnam last year when China deployed an oil rig in a section of the South China Sea claimed by both countries.
The Philippines has sought international arbitration to resolve the dispute, a move criticised by China as a betrayal to the commitment to solve the issue through dialogue and negotiations.
As tension continued to flare over the disputed waters, China has openly warned Japan and the United States against meddling in the conflicts.
On Tuesday, China carried out a live-fire drill in the South China Sea to “improve its maritime combat ability”, Chinese national news agency Xinhua reported.
Citing navy sources, Xinhua said dozens of missiles and torpedoes, as well as thousands of shells and bombs, were fired during the drill.
Expressing confidence that the conflicts in the South China Sea were “manageable”, Liu said there was no need to worry.
Without naming any countries in particular, he reminded third parties not to intervene and condemn China on the issue.
“The South China Sea is not an issue between China and Asean, but China and some countries in the grouping.
“Over the years, through the formulation of the DoC and the efforts to draw up a Code of Conduct (CoC), China and Asean have worked together to maintain peace and stability as well as to uphold freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea.
“China is confident and determined to work with Asean to jointly manage the issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, Noppadon said China and Asean had agreed to begin a new phase of consultations on the CoC and work towards its early conclusion.
He added that Thailand would submit a draft possible outline of the CoC for the consideration of the next joint working group, which would meet in Chengdu, Sichuan province, in October.
The meeting yesterday also witnessed the agreement to establish hotline communications between the Asean and Chinese foreign ministries to respond to emergencies at sea.
Malaysia was represented by Wisma Putra secretary-general Datuk Othman Hashim and three other officers in the meeting.
When approached, Othman said the meeting was peaceful and constructive.
“We discussed extensively on what we have achieved so far, and what has to be done for the future.
“We are working together with other Asean members for the implementation of the DoC and the development of the CoC,” he said.
Malaysia, which is the chair of Asean this year, will host a series of meetings, including the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, from Aug 1 to 6.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has confirmed his attendance.
BY THO XIN YI The Star/Asia News Network