Liang stresses respect at ASEAN talks
Updated: 2012-05-31 08:10
By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily)
China expressed an unwavering resolve to protect its national sovereignty and to deal with disputes peacefully, Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said on Tuesday.
Liang made those remarks at a short consultative meeting with defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, following talks on Monday with his Philippine counterpart, Voltaire Gazmin.
The two meetings came amid an impasse over Huangyan Island in the South China Sea. The dispute was prompted by a Philippine warship's harassment of Chinese fishermen in waters off the island on April 10.
Liang called for cooperation, mutual benefit, equality and mutual respect at the meeting, which mainly concerned regional security and strengthening mutual trust and cooperation.
"China will never slough off its responsibility to ensure regional peace and stability, never change its choice of pursuing peace and development, never slacken its efforts to promote regional cooperation, never give up its sincere pursuit of peaceful resolutions to disputes and never waver from its determination to guard its national sovereignty," Liang told his counterparts from ASEAN countries.
On Wednesday, Beijing once again demanded that Philippine vessels leave waters near Huangyan Island.
"China's stance on guarding its territorial sovereignty is unwavering," Liu Weimin, Foreign Ministry spokesman, said at a daily news conference.
Liu also confirmed that the two countries are communicating regularly.
Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asia studies at Peking University, said Liang's remarks conveyed more than the Chinese armed forces' stance on the Huangyan Island impasse.
"Although the Philippines cannot afford to enter into a large conflict over Huangyan Island, its rival claim over the island won't be withdrawn overnight," Yang said. "And it still wants to bargain with China and involve more third parties."
Liang, during his meeting on Monday with Gazmin, which was held on the sidelines of the defense ministers' meeting of Southeast Asian countries, urged the Philippines to show "discretion in both words and deeds" over the island impasse and to make real steps toward the establishment of regional peace and stability.
It was the first face-to-face talk the two defense chiefs had held since the most recent dispute over Huangyan Island broke out about two months ago. The island has been part of China's indisputable territory since ancient times.
Manila, following the incident, has attempted to enlist support for its position from third parties such as the United States and United Nations. Those actions have been firmly opposed by China and other countries.
The Philippines says it has a territorial claim to Huangyan because the island lies within its so-called 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. It has vowed to take its contentions about the island to international tribunals, a move China believes is meant to foment a territorial dispute and make the situation more complicated.
"Bringing disputes about another country's indisputable territory to international tribunals violates the ground rules of contemporary international relations," Deng Zhonghua, director of the department of boundary and ocean affairs with the Foreign Ministry, said earlier this month.
Philippine Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak supports the Philippine position that a resolution of the island dispute with China should be based on the UN Convention on Law of the Sea, the Manila Bulletin reported on Tuesday.
Binay met with the Malaysian Prime Minister at the Prime Minister's office, according to a statement from the Office of the Vice President, it said.