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China proposes treaty with ASEAN over South China Sea dispute

Last Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 15:16

Beijing: Seeking to play down its maritime dispute over South China Sea with East Asian countries South China Sea, China will propose a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the 10-member ASEAN bloc.

"China is ready to actively discuss with ASEAN countries the signing of a treaty on good-neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation to consolidate the political foundation for our strategic mutual trust," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said before leaving for Brunei to attend the ASEAN summit tomorrow.

Li will discuss a treaty during the 16th China-ASEAN leaders meeting, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Liu Zhenmin said.

"With the treaty, China would like to show its political determination for a strategy of peaceful development that will benefit all countries in the region. Beijing hopes to tell its neighbours in Southeast Asia that China is a friendly and dependable partner rather than a threat," said Xu Liping, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Besides the treaty, Li also proposes to enhance defence and security relations.

"We need to improve the mechanism of ASEAN-China defence ministers` meeting and deepen cooperation in disaster prevention and relief, cyber security, combating transnational crimes, joint law enforcement and other non-traditional security fields," Li told ASEAN media in an interview.

On the trade front, he said: "We need to build an upgraded version of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement" to push the trade from the current USD 400 billion to USD one trillion by 2020.

Earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who returned home today from the APEC summit in Bali, proposed to build a Maritime Silk Road to improve trade links with East Asian countries, some of whom are at loggerheads with Beijing on the South China Sea dispute.

Four of the 10 ASEAN members countries -- Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei beside Taiwan -- contest China`s claim of sovereignty on almost all of the South China Sea.

On the South China Sea dispute, Li said China and ASEAN countries have had many in-depth discussions and reached consensus on how to deal with the vexed problem.

"As long as we stay committed to this consensus and act in accordance with mutually-agreed principles, the South China Sea region will stay peaceful and stable," he said.

"The core of the South China Sea question is the disputes over the sovereignty of some islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands (called Paracel by Vietnam) and the delimitation disputes over some waters in the South China Sea.
"The Chinese government is firmly committed to the path of peaceful development, and is unshakable in its resolve to uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said, reiterating China`s stand over the disputed islands.

First Published: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 - 15:16

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