Jul 23, 2014

ASEAN - ASEAN to voice concern over disputes in South, East China seas

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ASEAN diplomatic sources told Kyodo News on Tuesday that at the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting scheduled to be held next month in Myanmar's administrative capital Naypyitaw, the foreign ministers will touch on territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

On the East China Sea, in particular, one of the sources quoted a draft of the meeting's joint statement as saying, "We expressed our concerns over the current tensions in the East China Sea. We urged all parties concerned to resolve territorial and maritime disputes in a peaceful manner, in accordance with international laws. We stressed the importance of protecting the freedom of navigation in and over-flight in the area and called on parties to refrain from taking unilateral action that would increase tensions and change the status quo."

On the South China Sea, the draft joint statement said, "We expressed our concern over recent development in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the importance of regional cooperation in maintaining peace, stability and maritime security in the region. We called on parties to settle dispute by peaceful means through friendly consultation and dialogue in accordance with universally recognized principles of international laws including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," according to the same source.

Myanmar plans to host a series of ASEAN and East Asia meetings Aug. 8-10, including the security-related ASEAN Regional Forum, which brings together 27 countries that have a bearing on the security of the Asia-Pacific region, including the United States and North Korea.

Ties between Tokyo and Beijing are strained as the two countries remain at odds over the sovereignty of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

China, which claims the islands and calls them the Diaoyu islands, has become increasingly assertive at sea, frequently sending patrol ships near the uninhabited islets.

Four ASEAN claimants -- the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- are involved in the issue of disputed islands in the South China Sea against the increasingly assertive rival claimant China, and have been struggling to hammer out a common position over the matter.

However, the ministers at the scheduled Naypyitaw meeting will likely refrain from mentioning the names of the countries involved in the East and South China sea issues, the same source said.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations also includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

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