Beijing says 'ready to work' with Asean on the rules of the South China Sea
BANGKOK: Beijing said Sunday that it is ready to work with the nations of Southeast Asia on a code of conduct at the critical point of the South China Sea, where it is accused of building military facilities and intimidating other plaintiffs.
China claims most of the resource-rich waterway, an important worldwide shipping route that has long been a source of tension in the region.
For years, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has been in talks for a code of conduct for the sea, where China is accused of deploying warships, assembling outposts and ramming fishing vessels.
The agreement, which will be finalized in 2021, will establish patterns of conduct for the sea along with conflict resolution parameters.
On Sunday, China's prime minister said the first reading of the document, an opportunity for all members to comment on the terms of the draft, was a very important milestone.
We are ready to work with the Asean countries by building on the existing base and base to fight for new progress in the guidelines, he said.
He added that China wanted to maintain and maintain long-term peace and stability in the South China Sea.
The Philippines, which has clashed with China at sea, said Sunday that Beijing is committed to the code, despite its wide claims about the waterway.
He acknowledges the fact that if he does not agree with a code of conduct, there will be turbulence in the region, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters in Bangkok outside of Asean.
The Philippines in 2016 presented a case before a UN-backed court, which finally rejected Beijing's claims at sea.
Waterway tensions have erupted in recent weeks between China and Vietnam, one of Beijing's most vocal critics on the issue.
Hanoi returned the attack to China after it sent a reconnaissance ship to the waters in and around the islands claimed by Hanoi and Beijing.
The ship departed after several weeks in the area.
Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims with China at sea.
The United States has accused China of bullying behavior, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo He said last week that the United States has been too easy with China.
We doubted and did much less than we should have done, he said, referring to China's disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines.
The three-day in Bangkok closes Monday, with leaders expected to issue a joint statement that will likely include a section on the South China Sea.
Members have fought in the past over the wording in the final statement, and some countries pressed for more severe language against China.