'Cold war thinking' has no place in Asia

Updated: 2012-01-09 07:04

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin on Sunday urged Asian countries to discard their "cold war mentality" when handling sensitive regional issues, saying that "exclusive security partnerships" fall short in terms of coping with the current complex regional situation.

His words came in the wake of China's occasionally tense relations with its neighbors in Asia last year, which were further complicated by Washington's strategic shift in the Asia-Pacific region.

Asia is generally stable and peaceful, yet thorny issues such as maritime and energy security still remain. "To address emerging problems, relevant sides have to firstly strengthen mutual trust in this diverse and complex region," he said.

After many years of efforts, a complex, multi-level security structure has been established and plays a constructive role in the Asia-Pacific region. This includes the Six-Party Talks, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forums, Liu said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency.

All the existing mechanisms should fully exploit their advantages, be complementary and promote each other, since "in the short-term, it is hardly possible to forge a pan-Asia-Pacific region security mechanism which tops all these mechanisms", Liu said.

The regional security mechanism should be based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination, he said.

As China's diplomat in charge of Asian affairs, Liu's remarks indicate China's stance toward its Asian neighbors.

Although China has enhanced mutual trust with its neighbors and put forward constructive suggestions for pragmatic cooperation, its relations with its Asian nations were tested by some long-standing issues last year.

In 2011, China experienced increased pressure regarding the South China Sea, where Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam hold competing claims.

China has been active in resolving regional issues and endeavored to cooperate with other Asian countries to create a regional environment featuring peace, stability, equality, mutual trust and cooperation, Liu said.

Relevant countries should put aside disputes and pursue common development before the disputes are resolved. Forces outside the region should not intervene in South China Sea disputes, he said.

"This is also the consensus of relevant countries," he said.

The uneven situation in the Asia-Pacific region made it difficult to establish a pan-Asia-Pacific region security mechanism, but members of different mechanisms often cooperated to address issues, said Zhang Tuosheng, a researcher at the China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies.

"All sides should share emergency management mechanisms to avoid any escalation in the region, and I believe, closer economic ties will eventually improve relations between countries that have territorial disputes," he added.

Trade between China and other Asian countries reached $965.2 billion in first 11 months of 2011, up 21 percent year-on-year.

China is currently ASEAN's largest trading partner, while ASEAN is China's third-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN totaled $328.9 billion in first 11 months of 2011.

In July 2011, China and ASEAN adopted an agreement on the guidelines of implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), starting substantial cooperation under the DOC framework.

China also signed an agreement with Vietnam on the basic principles guiding the settlement of existing maritime issues between the two countries.

"This all proves that China and ASEAN have the resolve, wisdom and capability to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea," Liu said.

He reaffirmed that the South China Sea is an important international transportation channel, whose safety and freedom of navigation are never affected by disputes.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

China Daily