PHNOM PENH: Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has made a strong call to both ASEAN and China that the South China Sea issue should not define ties between the 10-member grouping and China.
He said it is important to maintain confidence in East Asia and noted that territorial claims have heightened tensions in East Asia and dominated the news this year.
Mr Lee was speaking during the ASEAN-China Dialogue, attended by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and ASEAN leaders.
Mr Lee cautioned that prolonged tensions will affect investor confidence in the region and therefore it is important to ensure that regional discourse is positive.
Turning to the South China Sea disputes, Mr Lee called on all parties to the Declaration of Conduct to implement the provisions in entirety and said it is a good step towards building trust and confidence amongst the countries.
He noted that the informal consultations between ASEAN and China on a Code of Conduct have already started and urged that formal discussions on the Code should begin soon.
Mr Lee said this would signal ASEAN's and China's resolve to maintain peace and stability, and show the international community that both sides can work together even on difficult issues.
He also urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from provocative actions or the use of force.
The South China Sea issue was a sticking point in July during the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh, which led to the ASEAN foreign ministers not issuing their communique.
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