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China to resolve SouthChinaSea disputes with countries “directly involved”: Xi
April 28, 2016, 6:19 am

According to official Chinese data, the South China Sea covers 3.55 million square km [Xinhua]

According to official Chinese data, the South China Sea covers 3.55 million square km [Xinhua]

China will not allow developments inimical to peace and stability in the South China Sea, Chinese President Xi Jinping told a group of Asian foreign ministers on Thursday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also attending the event.

“While China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty, rights and interests, it is willing to peacefully solve the disputes through friendly consultation and dialogue with the countries directly involved,” Xi was quoted as saying by Chinese Xinhua agency.

Xi was speaking at a “Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia” in Beijing.

A ruling is expected in the next few months in an international arbitration case the Philippines has brought against China’s South China Sea claims. Beijing has refused to participate in or acknowledge the proceedings.

China will work with Southeast Asian nations to make the South China Sea a region of peace, friendship and cooperation, Xi said on Thursday. His reference to dialogue only with “countries directly involved” is not the first time Beijing has hit out at US interference in the South China Sea.

Earlier last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned the US against “muddying the waters” that could “plunge Asia into chaos”.

“Philippines’ stubbornness on the South China Sea dispute is the result of behind-the-scene instigation, political maneuvering,” Wang alleged.

Even as the US continues with what it calls “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea, China has got support from Moscow on the dispute.

Attempts to internationalize the issue must be stopped, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this month.

“I am convinced that they (attempts to internationalize the issue) are completely counterproductive,” said Lavrov. “Only negotiations, which China and the ASEAN are pursuing can bring the desired result, namely, mutually acceptable agreements.”

The South China Sea, which official Chinese data indicates is 3.55 million square km, is one of the world’s most strategically important waterways and is exceedingly rich with minerals.

China, which claims about 2 million square km of the maritime territory, has always maintained that “the situation in the South China Sea is stable. China and the countries of the [ASEAN] have kept a good-neighborly relationship”.

China claims most of the area, and Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines have rival claims.

Philippines, a major non-NATO ally of the US in the Pacific and an ASEAN member, had previously agreed to allow the United States access to its military bases under a new security deal.

The deal will allow the United States to increase deployment of American troops, ships and aircrafts in the region.

This aids US plans to “rebalance” its forces in Asia-Pacific region for the much-hyped Asia Pivot.

Meanwhile, at the gathering of foreign ministers on Thursday, Xi also said China will guard against “chaos and war” in the Korean peninsula.

Xi urged all the parties involved to “exercise restraint, avoid provocation, and pull the nuclear issue back to a track of dialogue and negotiations at an early date”.

The CICA was established in 1992 as a forum for dialogue and consultation on security issues in Asia. It has 26 member countries, including Russia.

12 countries and international organizations are CICA observers, including US and Japan.


TBP and Agencies

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