China to build 'shared future' with 'good friend' ASEAN, Chinese premier says
15 November, 2017, 00:53 | Author: Brenda Erickson
Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to allay concerns over Beijing's military buildup and the prospects of war in the South China Sea's contested waters.
He said Mr Xi assured him of China's peaceful intentions in the strategic waterway, where Beijing, the Philippines, Vietnam and three other governments have overlapping claims.
Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines all claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs and islands.
China has in recent years built artificial islands and airstrips capable of hosting military installations in contested areas to cement its claims, inflaming tensions with its neighbours.
There have been two armed conflicts between China and Vietnam in the sea - brief clashes in 1974 and 1988 that claimed the lives of dozens of Vienamese troops.
The Philippines has made news for its human rights violations, notorious death squads and the bloody drug war overseen by the nation's president, Rodrigo Duterte.
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And China, which has long insisted the United States has no role to play in the dispute, spoke out against what it deemed foreign interference.
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"We are committed to working with ASEAN to build a community of shared future featuring common ideals, common prosperity and common responsibility", Li said in his opening statement at the ASEAN-China Summit here.
The framework will be endorsed by China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a summit in Manila on Monday, a diplomat from one of the regional bloc's countries said.
According to experts, the South China Sea is the source of 12 percent of global fishing catch, a vital channel for $5 trillion worth of annual trade, and potentially holds 11 billion barrels of oil reserves and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.
Xinhua news agency reported that the Chinese and Vietnamese sides "reached an important consensus in accordance with leaders of the two parties and countries, to appropriately manage maritime issues, steadily advance all forms of maritime cooperation including joint development and jointly strive to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea".
China initially agreed in 2002 to begin talks on a code, but delayed doing so while carrying out its expansionist strategy.
The foreign ministers of Asean member states and China adopted a framework for the code of conduct on maritime disputes in August, though it remains to be seen whether the final product would be legally binding.
According to the worldwide tribunal in The Hague, China's historical claims have no legal basis, and some of the features it is claiming fall within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
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