KUALA LUMPUR: All countries involved in the East Asia Summit, including China, have agreed to uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight at the South China Sea.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak put in perspective that when it comes to freedom of navigation and overflight, all countries agreed that there should not be any interference and that there should be respect.
“China has also come out categorically to say that they are committed to ensure safety and freedom of navigation. So, it’s not just Asean but China wants this, too,” he said.
The East Asia Summit is a forum made up of 18 countries comprising Asean’s 10 member states and their eight dialogue partners – India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.
On the stand of Asean leaders regarding the issue of South China Sea’s maritime and territorial disputes, Najib said they reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, security and stability.
Equally important, he said, was to enhance mutual trust and confidence and to exercise restraint in the conduct of activities, adding that Asean had agreed to speed up the conclusion of the Code of Conduct.
On land reclamation in the disputed waters, the Prime Minister said that several leaders had raised the matter and expressed concern that such action would change the status quo.
Despite the concern, Najib said that leaders expressed commitment that all countries must make sure that tensions would not rise further.
“We have also agreed that we have to find a modality or a space in international law to resolve this,” he added.
China’s Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin in a separate press conference said China did not welcome the US’ recent military exercises in the area, describing it as a “political provocation”.
“It is a political provocation and its purpose is to test China’s response,” Liu said.
Liu also slammed those who view the presence of its military base there as an attempt to militarise the South China Sea.
“It is a consistent position of China’s government to firmly oppose militarisation of the South China Sea,” he said.
He justified the construction and the land reclamation in the area, saying it was aimed at improving the working and living conditions of those stationed there.
“It will also create better conditions for China to move on its international obligations to provide more public services to regional countries,” said Liu.
He expressed regret that 42 out of the 100 odd islands were “illegally occupied” by neighbouring countries.
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