Sea clashes not Asean's problem, says Beijing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 3:50am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 5:48pm

The South China Sea dispute is not a problem between China and Asean, Beijing said, urging certain member states not to use the issue to sow discord.

Territorial rows dominated the agenda at a Southeast Asian summit in Myanmar yesterday, with Vietnam and the Philippines pushing for stronger action to confront China's aggressive behaviour in disputed waters.

A showdown between Chinese and Vietnamese ships erupted near the Paracel Islands last week, while the Philippines arrested 11 crew members of a Chinese fishing vessel for poaching turtles in waters that are part of its exclusive economic zone.

A statement released by leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) at yesterday's meeting expressed concern and called for restraint by all parties involved in the maritime disputes, but it made no direct mention of China.

Vietnam and the Philippines made it clear from the start that they wanted more.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the issue should not concern Asean and that Beijing was opposed to "one or two countries' attempts to use the South [China] Sea issue to harm the overall friendship and co-operation between China and Asean".

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged his Asean counterparts to protest against what he termed China's "serious violation" in the sea.

"China has brazenly moved its deep-water drilling rig escorted by over 80 armed and military vessels and many airplanes to the Vietnamese waters," he said. The vessels "fired high-powered water cannons and rammed straight into the Vietnamese public-service and civil ships".

The stand-off between China and Vietnam started on May 1 when China moved a deep sea oil rig into waters close to the Paracel Islands. China insists it is doing nothing wrong, saying on Thursday it had "maintained a lot of restraint" in the face of "intensive provocations".

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he would raise his country's dispute with Beijing at the summit, while calling for help to resolve the row through international arbitration.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press