KUALA LUMPUR: The South China Sea maritime and territorial disputes are causing alarm even among non-claimant countries, with leaders from India and Japan asking all parties to settle the issue peacefully.
The topic is expected to be raised during the East Asia Summit here today as leaders from the Asean 10 meet their dialogue partners from Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed hope that all the parties involved would abide by guidelines on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC), and redouble efforts for early adoption of a Code of Conduct (CoC) on the basis of consensus.
“We should evolve specific plans of cooperation in maritime security, counter-piracy and humanitarian and disaster relief,” said Modi at the Asean-India Summit yesterday.
Asean and China agreed in 2002 on the DoC and has since been working to draw up the official and binding CoC.
Land reclamation, aggressive acts by claimants and US naval patrols in the area have raised temperatures.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan are involved in the dispute along with China – which claims it owns more than 80% of the South China Sea.
US President Barack Obama said countries should stop building artificial islands and militarising their claims in the area.
“For the sake of regional stability the claimants should halt reclamation, construction and militarisation of disputed areas,” Obama said during a meeting with Asean leaders.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had, during his meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Friday, expressed concern over large-scale land reclamation and the building of facilities for military purposes.
The unilateral actions by claimants, said Abe, would change the status quo and complicate matters further.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino yesterday warned against allowing any single country to dominate others.
“We believe that, as a rules-based community, Asean should not allow any country, no matter how powerful, to claim an entire sea as its own and to use force or the threat thereof in asserting such a claim,” he said at the Asean Summit plenary session.
China Premier Li Keqiang, asked by reporters whether the issue was discussed at Asean-China Summit, smiled but did not break his stride as he left the meeting hall.
“Let’s preserve peace and stability,” was all Li said in reply as he continued to walk away, surrounded by bodyguards.
Najib, as the chair of Asean, will then issue a Chairman’s Statement that will spell out the regional body’s stand on the way forward.