Monday, September 03, 2012

Chinese leader thanks Cambodia for role in sea row

China’s premier has thanked Cambodia for its support in a Southeast Asian regional bloc amid tensions between Beijing and several nations over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The official Xinhua news agency said Wen Jiabao told Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in a meeting yesterday that China will promote closer cooperation with Cambodia.

In mid-July, foreign ministers of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to issue a joint statement after their annual meeting in Phnom Penh when host Cambodia rejected a proposal by the Philippines and Vietnam to mention their territorial disputes with China in the document.

Xinhua said Wen thanked Cambodia for its “important role in maintaining the overall situation of friendly relations between China and the ASEAN.”

Last month, Cambodia’s ambassador to the Philippines was recalled, after the envoy accused his host country of playing “dirty politics” in its maritime row with China.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters that Ambassador Hos Sereythonh had been recalled, but he did not give reasons.

The recall came after Del Rosario summoned the

ambassador to explain comments he made in a letter to The STAR blaming the Philippines and Vietnam for a rift at a regional conference in Cambodia.

Foreign affairs department spokesman Raul Hernandez said it was Cambodia’s prerogative to recall its envoy.

Overlapping claims

China has overlapping claims with four ASEAN members in the South China Sea.

At a regular ASEAN meeting hosted by Cambodia last month, the 10-nation bloc for the first time in its 45-year history failed to issue a joint statement because of tensions over the maritime disputes.

Hos accused the Philippines and Vietnam of attempting to “sabotage and hijack the joint communiqué” during the meeting.

In his letter, Hos said he was responding to an article written by an official of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on what happened at the ASEAN meeting.

The Philippines has accused Cambodia, a close ally of China, of blocking any mention of the South China Sea spat.

China lays claim to a U-shaped swathe of the South China Sea, overlapping areas claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

These are thought to have significant oil and gas reserves below parts of the South China Sea subject to ownership disputes.

In recent years, tensions over the issue have increased amid growing assertiveness from China over its maritime claims.

Ties between China and the Philippines are already strained in the wake of a recent standoff over another disputed area, Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.-The Philippine Star (September 03, 2012 12:00AM)

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