Phnom Penh: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has made a strong defence of his country’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea.
He said so after a summit of world leaders ended in bitter disagreement over how to ease tensions in the strategic and resource-rich waterways.
“China’s act of defending its sovereignty is necessary and legitimate ... and we have properly handled the incidents that were not of the making of China,” Jiabao told 17 other leaders on the final day of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, according to Chinese vice foreign minister Fu Ying.
According to the Sydney Moring Herald, US President Barack Obama told the leaders to end tensions over the disputed territory, but stopped short of firmly backing smaller Asian nations in their disputes with China.
“President Obama’s message is there needs to be a reduction of the tensions,” top US security official Ben Rhodes told journalists.
“There is no reason to risk any potential escalation, particularly when you have two of the world`s largest economies, China and Japan, associated with some of those disputes,” Rhodes said.
According to the report, a statement by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the end of the summit did not make any mention of the South China Sea, which would have pleased China, which insisted the disputes stay off the summit’s formal agenda.
But several leaders had raised the issue, including mentioning a tense stand-off between Chinese and Philippine ships at Scarborough Shoal, off the Philippine coast, earlier this year, the report added.
The issue has caused deep division in the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations, whose member states are supposed to make decisions by consensus, it said.
While China claims almost all of the territory, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts, it added.