Do not let US stoke disputes

Updated: 2014-08-12 09:12

By Zhao Minghao(China Daily)

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Meanwhile, the Philippines has been strengthening its maritime force. Since Benigno Aquino took office in 2010, the Philippine government has already invested 40 billion PHP ($910 million) on purchasing frigates, anti-submarine helicopters and long-range patrol aircraft, with a further plan to install advanced radar and a coastal warning system in the disputed sea area. Japan and Vietnam signed an agreement in early August, according to which Japan will give six ships to Vietnam to empower its maritime police. The Vietnamese government issued an order that all vessels of its Fishery Resources Supervision Department be equipped with weapons like pistols and machine guns as of Sept 15.

On July 11, Nguyen Phuoc Tuong, a former adviser to two Vietnamese prime ministers, said Vietnam must form an alliance with the US "to defeat the new Chinese expansionism" in an op-ed on The New York Times. Japan is preparing for the first Japan-ASEAN Defense Ministers' meeting in November, which many believe is to counterbalance China's emerging maritime power.

All the heated disputes about the South China Sea make the ARF Foreign Ministers' Meeting especially important. On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China supports and advocates a "dual-track" approach to solving the South China Sea disputes, namely that disputes should be addressed by the concerned countries peacefully through friendly negotiations, while peace and stability in the South China Sea should be jointly maintained by China and ASEAN countries. That means China is willing to embrace a multilateralism spirit in pacifying the situation and willing to negotiate with the parties involved in the disputes in a rule-based manner, though it will not accept any new trouble caused by certain nations.

To some extent, China and the US are competing over South China Sea issues and such competition is on proposing initiatives and rules that can attract more international support with a firmer legal and moral basis.

It should be noted, specifically, that China as a committed supporter of ASEAN and related mechanisms should clarify that it is not seeking to divide ASEAN. Over the years, China has hosted about one-third of the cooperation programs within the ARF framework; in 2015 it will co-host six programs together with ASEAN nations, which cover disaster-relief, maritime security, preventive diplomacy and cybersecurity.

These are good opportunities for ASEAN and China to improve their relations. Both sides need to prevent the maritime disputes from poisoning mutual relations. They cannot afford to be strategically misguided.

The author is a research fellow with the Charhar Institute and adjunct fellow with the Center for International and Strategic Studies, Peking University. 

(China Daily 08/12/2014 page8)

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