Engage China on rifts, says Indonesian leader

Washington: China needs to be brought into regional dialogue to ensure a peaceful resolution to tensions over the South China Sea, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.

Speaking to US public television, the Indonesian leader acknowledged sensitivities in Southeast Asia about Beijing's rise but said he believed that in time China "could be a good friend for everybody”.

"I think, why don't we encourage dialogue that can also bring China in it if you can discuss how to maintain stability and order in South China Sea... I believe that we could avoid tensions in the region," Yudhoyono told 'The Charlie Rose Show' in an interview broadcast late Monday.

"In my view, we should have a general talk with China that the expectations of the countries in the region to deal with anything peacefully, politically, and China should be part of that kind of framework."

China's relations with many of its neighbours have soured in recent years due to what many view as Beijing's new assertiveness over maritime territorial disputes, particularly with Japan and Vietnam.

China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed in 2002 to develop a code of conduct for the South China Sea. But there has been little progress, with China seen as hoping to settle disputes one-by-one instead of negotiating with ASEAN as a whole.

Yudhoyono said he welcomed an active role by the United States in Southeast Asia. The administration of President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, has put a renewed focus on engaging the economically dynamic region.

Bureau Report