Phnom Penh: China reacted cautiously on Wednesday to a proposal by Southeast Asian nations to establish rules for maritime conduct in the South China Sea to avoid conflict among nations.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying said foreign ministers from the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations proposed that they hold talks on establishing a code of conduct for avoiding escalation of maritime disputes.
The ministers made the proposal in talks earlier today with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
China and several Southeast Asian countries have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea. Chinese and Philippine ships have been engaged in a standoff in one disputed area since April.
Fu said Yang would seriously consider the proposal if conditions are ripe for discussions.
ASEAN foreign ministers this week are meeting in the Cambodian capital and are holding talks with their counterparts from major powers such as China and the United States.
China and the ASEAN powers 10 years ago agreed on a broadly defined declaration of conduct for the South China Sea, which Fu said calls for consideration of a code of conduct "when the time is ripe."
She told a press briefing that the "good conditions" necessary for talks on a code of conduct require that all parties involved honor the 10-year-old declaration. She did not elaborate.