Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar): Tensions in the South China Sea Saturday figured in talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterparts from the region, with the Philippines minister elaborating on the country’s three-stage resolution of territorial disputes in that sea.
“The Philippines did share with us their triple action plan and what they see as their approach to the South China Sea,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters.
At the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting here, the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario presented a three-part proposal meant to reduce tension in the South China Sea.
Rosario told the ASEAN meet that tensions in the South China Sea have worsened in the past few months and continue to deteriorate.
The Philippine proposal appealed to the ASEAN to call for cessation of activities that escalate tension in the South China Sea.
It also asked the ASEAN and China to manage tensions further by working for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
The proposal also urged the parties to come up with a code of conduct in disputed areas.
The proposal also requested for the clarification of entitlements of disputed areas through arbitration in accordance with international law.
The South China Sea has become a hotbed for maritime conflict mainly involving China and its Asian neighbours who either claim the territory in part or in full.
The Philippines refers to the part of the South China Sea within its exclusive economic zone as the West Philippine Sea.
The issue of the South China Sea also figured in bilateral talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, with the Vietnam minister, and Australia.
Wang indicated his country’s views on the disputed sea and “we listened to those views carefully. China is an important country, it is a neighbour with which we have very cordial relations, it is a neighbour we are building our relationship with, and it is only fair to understand their viewpoint”, Akbaruddin said.
India’s viewpoint is that it is not a party to the dispute in the South China Sea and feels that the dispute should be resolved between those who are parties to this in a peaceful manner, and in accordance with international law.
India also has interest in ensuring that there is free right of navigation and access to natural resources in that region, he told reporters.
The Philippines has been at the forefront of protests against China and has challenged Beijing’s claims before a UN tribunal.
It has also protested Chinese reclamation works in disputed reefs.
Manila is pushing for a speedy conclusion of talks for a legally binding code of conduct, and the establishment of a dispute settlement mechanism anchored in international law.