China says does not want South China Sea overshadowing summit

BEIJING/PHNOM PENH Sat Nov 17, 2012 7:42pm IST

Government security personnel and officials at at the VIP section of Phnom Penh airport are reflected on a marble pillar, as delegations arrive for the 21st ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and East Asia summits November 17, 2012. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Government security personnel and officials at at the VIP section of Phnom Penh airport are reflected on a marble pillar, as delegations arrive for the 21st ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and East Asia summits November 17, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Related Topics

BEIJING/PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A regional summit in Cambodia should not be overshadowed by a dispute over the South China Sea as the situation is under control and countries involved can resolve differences themselves, a top Chinese diplomat said on Saturday.

China's assertion of sovereignty over the stretch of water off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts, making it Asia's biggest potential military trouble spot.

But Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said the dispute was well in hand, ahead of a meeting beginning this weekend of regional leaders in Cambodia attended by Southeast Asian heads of states as well as China's Premier Wen Jiabao and U.S. President Barack Obama.

"As soon as this region is bought up everyone thinks it's very dangerous, very turbulent, because of the South China Sea issue. In fact, over the past few years, China and the countries surrounding the South China Sea have successfully controlled the dispute and not let it intensify," Fu told reporters.

Asia's experience since the end of the Cold War of avoiding large-scale conflict showed that the South China Sea issue was also manageable, she said.

China, however, has resisted proposals for multilateral talks on the sea, preferring to try to negotiate disputes with each of the far less powerful individual claimants. It has also opposed Washington's attempts to get involved.

Unprecedented arguments over a push to introduce a code of conduct, or common approach, to territorial tension with China led to the collapse of a summit of Southeast Asian leaders in July, preventing the issuing of a joint communique by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the first time in its 45-year history.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said such disarray within the bloc could not be repeated.

"We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of a similar disunity," Natalegawa said in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

"It is bad for all involved, not only for ASEAN, it's even bad for China as well. So I think ASEAN and China are on the same boat literally on the South China Sea."

HIGHER STAKES

Officials at the summit are playing down any hope of progress on the code of conduct, though Indonesia proposed a hot line be set up between ASEAN nations and China for use in the event of any incidents.

"We have to be able to pick up the phone to share with another what had happened and how we can manage and contain the issue," Natalegawa said.

The stakes have risen in the area as the U.S. military shifts its attention and resources back to Asia, emboldening its long-time ally the Philippines and former foe Vietnam to take a tougher stance against Beijing.

Fu said over the past few years there had been a "phenomenon" of the South China Sea issue being "hyped up" whenever there was a regional or international meeting involving China and its ASEAN neighbours.

"Shattering the peaceful atmosphere in this way gives people the wrong impression."

"The dispute's resolution still has to come from talks with the countries directly involved. China and ASEAN are confident they can maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, and we have already proved that we can do this," Fu said.

"We also hope that countries from outside the region, in other words countries which are not China or ASEAN members, can have faith in us. If you want to help, then do it in a positive way, and not interfere or provoke."

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

(Additional reporting by James Pomfret, Prak Chan Thul and Manny Mogato in Phnom Penh; Editing by Robert Birsel)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Ebola Outbreak

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Neclear Restart

Neclear Restart

Japan's Sendai nuclear restart in final stage: local governor.  Full Article 

Fight Unites

Fight Unites

Kurds' battle for Kobani unites a people divided by borders.  Full Article 

Railway Revamp

Railway Revamp

China to spend at least $33 bln on new railway lines.  Full Article 

Controversial Remark

Controversial Remark

Thousands denounce HSBC board member's likening of Hong Kong people to freed slaves.  Full Article 

Apple's Cook signals front line of new gay rights battle

Cook Speaks Up

Apple's Cook signals front line of new gay rights battle.  Full Article 

Gas Deal

Gas Deal

Ukraine, Russia, EU agree to natural gas supply deal.  Full Article 

Jerusalem Tensions

Jerusalem Tensions

Kerry urges restraint, expresses worry over tensions in Jerusalem.  Full Article 

Myanmar Roundtable

Myanmar Roundtable

Obama urges progress in Myanmar ahead of rare roundtable.  Full Article 

Active Volcano

Active Volcano

National Guard arrives in Hawaii town threatened by lava.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage