‘Direct talks only way to resolve South China Sea dispute’

To calm tempers over South China Sea disputes, China has proposed a three-way formula, including direct "bilateral" talks, to address the escalating tensions with several of its maritime neighbours.

Beijing: In a bid to calm down tempers over South China Sea disputes, China has proposed a three-way formula, including direct "bilateral" talks, to address the escalating tensions with several of its maritime neighbours.
On a fence mending mission with the Association of South East Asian Countries (ASEAN) countries whose top officials are meeting in Bangkok, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the three-way formula could be tried simultaneously to resolve the vexed dispute.

An agreement can be reached through consultation and negotiation between "direct parties concerned", he said during his meeting with Surukiat Sathirathai, Chairman of Asia Peace Reconciliation Council, yesterday.

The only way that can lead to final solution is through direct talks between the parties concerned, he said.

Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, which are all part of ASEAN have been pressing for the regional bloc to collectively deal with China, which claims almost all of the South China Sea as its own. They are also seeking help of the US to resolve the dispute.

Wang said China is always opening its door for dialogue with all disputing parties. The allegation that bilateral negotiation could not be moved forward is untrue and baseless, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

He said the second way to resolve the issue is to continue to implement the Declaration of the Conduct (DOC) while gradually push forward the consultations on the Conduct of Code of the South China Sea.

Both the DOC and Conduct of Code are not the solutions for disputes, but meant to commonly safeguard peace and stability in the region, Wang said.

Referring to the exploitation of natural resources like oil and minerals, the Chinese Foreign Minister said the third way is to search for ways of common exploitation.

As it takes time to find a final solution for the South China Sea disputes, concerned parties meanwhile should jointly search for ways of common exploitation on a win-win and mutually beneficial basis, he said.

The common exploitation is not only for economic interest, but it will also send signals to the other parts of the world that the countries in the region are willing to solve their disputes through cooperation.

His proposals came in the backdrop of comments by Chinese
President Xi Jinping that disputes with neighbours could be "shelved" to pursue common development.

Earlier addressing the ASEAN forum he called on countries involved in the South China Sea issue to avoid aggravating conflicts.

At the moment, one of the top priorities in Beijing`s ties with ASEAN is to "insist on properly handling differences" through peaceful ways, Wang said.

"We hope the relevant countries can also uphold this spirit, walk face-to-face with us and not take any further actions that might complicate matters. And especially not misjudge the situation and remake mistakes," Wang said.

He was speaking at the forum as part of celebrations for the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the strategic partnership between China and ASEAN.

Officials said his comments were directed towards the Philippines, which "continues to add fuel to its maritime dispute with Beijing".

On July 16, Manila said the country`s arbitral proceedings seeking US involvement against China`s territorial claims in the South China Sea were officially under way.

Beijing has long upheld diplomatic efforts to address the South China Sea issue bilaterally with the countries involved, and rejects international arbitration.

Wang also suggested to update the China-ASEAN free trade area (FTA) and promote their economic integration.

Trade between China and ASEAN reached USD 400 billion in 2012. China and ASEAN are each other`s biggest trading partners, the Xinhua report said.


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