Beijing warns all outside Asean against involvement in South China Sea disputes
Asean states' interests and those of China, not those of US or other outsiders, called paramount
China warned yesterday that only Asean's declaration of conduct was relevant to how nations interacted in the South China Sea and any competing proposal would harm the interests of Beijing and the regional bloc.
The message was delivered by Foreign Minister Wang Yi after a US proposal to suspend provocative acts in the disputed waters received a cool response from participants at the Asean Regional Forum (ARF).
Watch: Sea row overshadows talks between China, Southeast Asia
The Philippines has also called for a suspension as part of a plan to ease tension.
"Someone has been exaggerating or even playing up the so-called tension in the South China Sea," Wang said at a ministerial press conference in Naypyidaw yesterday. "We do not agree with such a practice, and we call for vigilance in the motives behind them. Any proposal to come up with an alternative would only disrupt discussion of the code of conduct."
Foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations are meeting in Naypyidaw along with top envoys from China, Russia, Japan, India, Australia, the European Union and the US for the ARF.
"We need to work together to manage tensions in the South China Sea and manage them peacefully and also to manage them on a basis of international law," US Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Dr Shi Yinhong , a professor of international relations in Renmin University in Beijing, said Wang's remark was aimed at rebutting the US agenda.
"Kerry has made it clear that the US wants to be a mediator, and this is totally unacceptable to China."
Wang also said Beijing would adopt a "double track mindset" in dealing with the South China Sea issue. China would resolve territorial disputes through bilateral dialogue, but work with Asean in maintaining peace in the region. This is the first time China has used the term, although it is consistent with its previous positions.
Asean is working to conclude a binding code of conduct for maritime actions.
Shi said Wang was only clarifying China's stance that it would not accept any multilateral talks over sovereignty disputes, but could agree to negotiating issues relating to maritime rights, exclusive economic zones, and navigation, through the ARF.