Sunday, September 09, 2012

In sea of territorial disputes, China asks APEC to help secure 'peace'

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Saturday urged all Asia-Pacific nations to help ensure peace in the region, amid a series of territorial rows that have inflamed nationalist tensions.

"To maintain peace and stability as well as the sound momentum of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific, it is in the interests of all countries in the region, it is our shared responsibility," Hu told a regional forum in Russia.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc's annual gathering of leaders, held this year in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok, was due to officially open later Saturday.

The talks, which are meant to focus on opening up trade within the 21-member group, are this year being held under the cloud of a series of territorial disputes, involving several members, including China.

Hu's call for cooler heads, at a business forum ahead of the leaders' summit, came a day after he raised South China Sea disputes in separate talks with President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea as its own. But Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also have overlapping claims, and the disputes have for decades made the sea a potential military flashpoint.

Vietnam and the Philippines have accused China of ramping up a campaign of intimidation recently to enforce its claims to the South China Sea, causing a rapid decline in diplomatic relations.

In 1974, 53 Vietnamese military personnel were killed when Vietnam lost a battle for control of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

In 1988, another 70 Vietnamese troops died when the two nations battled for control of a reef in another archipelago in the sea.

Chinese state media said Hu told Sang on Friday that Beijing and Hanoi should take a step back and work together to resolve their row peacefully.

"There have been some difficulties with China-Vietnam relations because of the dispute in the South China Sea. This is what we don't want to see," the China Daily quoted Hu as telling Sang.

"Hu said the two sides should keep cool-headed and restrained and avoid taking any unilateral measure that will magnify, complicate or internationalise the dispute, to prevent the issue from affecting East Asian cooperation and regional stability," it added.

He told the Sultan of Brunei the issue was "a chronic headache that should be resolved properly through dialogue and negotiations", the report said.

The United States has angered China by lobbying hard for a code of conduct among nations involved and insisting that freedom of navigation in the strategic sea was in its interest.

Meanwhile, China has become embroiled in an arguably even more hostile row with Japan, another APEC member, over competing claims to islands in the East China Sea.

China-Japan tensions have risen in recent months, spiking in the past week after Japanese media, citing government sources, said Tokyo had agreed to buy a contested group of islands in the sea from their Japanese landowners.

China responded by saying it would take all "necessary measures" to defend its claims to the Diaoyu islands, known in Japanese as the Senkaku chain.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Friday he would not hold a customary, official meeting with Hu at APEC this weekend because of the dispute, although he would consider informal talks.-Interaksyon (September 08, 2012)

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