Code of maritime conduct call over disputed islands
GROWING TENSIONS over Asia’s maritime ambitions dominated the agenda at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Phnom Penh yesterday, with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton urging those involved to make their claims clear and consider working together on exploring energy reserves.
“All parties should clarify and pursue their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law,” Ms Clinton told a meeting of foreign ministers. “We now look to Asean and China to make meaningful progress toward finalising this code.”
The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all lay claim to parts of the South China Sea.
In the last few months, there have been growing tensions between the various countries about who owns what.
Foreign ministers of the 10- nation Asean bloc are meeting in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh with counterparts from the region including China, Ms Clinton and the European Union’s Catherine Ashton.
The meeting comes at a time of uncertainty in China, with a once- in-a-decade leadership change starting in the autumn of this year.
The official Xinhua news agency quoted the Chinese foreign ministry as saying that Beijing did not “accept a representation lodged by the Japanese side over the issue”.
Asean is seeking China’s agreement on a code of conduct on disputes in the potentially oil-rich South China Sea.
The islands in question go by a number of different names and are claimed by a number of local nations.
Known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, the uninhabited but resource-rich islands are controlled by Japan, but are also claimed by China and Taiwan.
Japan summoned China’s ambassador to protest against the appearance of Chinese patrol boats in the area early on Wednesday.
Ms Clinton has also been seeking clarity on a report that Japan’s government planned to buy the islands, prompting an angry response from China.
Prime minister Yoshihiko Noda said he would continue to brief the US secretary of state on Japan’s plans.
Ms Clinton has called for the nations to come together to work out, and stick to, a code of maritime conduct to prevent confrontation over the resource-rich waters.
A speech by Ms Clinton in Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bator appears to have irritated the Chinese.
An editorial in the People’s Daily criticised her for using the buffer state as a model for Asian democracy.
“If the US always shows up as a preacher, and always picks on democracy in Asia by standing high and looking down, or if it even wants to raise its flag to build a ‘team’ that can balance China’s development, it will ultimately make itself marginalised,” ran the piece.
Asean was set up in 1967 by Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.
Brunei joined in 1984, followed by Vietnam in 1995, Laos and Burma in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999.