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Sino-ASEAN ties key to peace in S. China Sea

Sino-ASEAN ties key to peace in S. China Sea

Updated: 2012-04-02 08:03

By Wu Jiao in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (China Daily)

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China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations should work hard to boost practical cooperation and maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, said a joint statement due to be issued on Monday by China and Cambodia.

According to the statement, the two countries agreed that "China and ASEAN countries shall continue to abide by the purpose and spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and give full play to all the existing mechanisms including the guidelines for the implementation of the DOC to make it a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation for China and ASEAN countries".

Monday is the final day of President Hu Jintao's four-day state visit to Cambodia, which holds the rotating chair of ASEAN in 2012 and plays an important role in East Asian cooperation and China-ASEAN relations.

It also comes just two days ahead of a two-day regional summit of ASEAN in Phnom Penh.

Although Phnom Penh has already said the South China Sea issue would not be on the official agenda of the meeting, the Philippines said last week that it would raise the issue at the summit.

Covering an area of more than 3.5 million square kilometers, the South China Sea is believed to hold vast deposits of oil and natural gas and is a conduit for more than one-third of the world's seaborne trade and half its traffic in oil and gas.

Yet ties between China and some ASEAN countries have been strained in recent years due to overlapping claims in the South China Sea among China and four other ASEAN countries - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

To resolve the dispute, China and ASEAN members signed the DOC in 2002, in which they pledged to jointly safeguard regional stability, cooperate in the area and resolve disputes through peaceful talks between the direct claimants.

The DOC also said that related parties should exercise self-restraint and not undertake any activities that may complicate the situation.

However, several countries still keep making unilateral moves in tapping the maritime resources in the disputed region, giving rise to frictions.

Beijing opposes internationalizing the conflict and prefers to negotiate with the direct claimants. Yet some ASEAN countries are determined to magnify the dispute and bring in powers from outside the region for backup in pressuring China over the issue.

Hu's four-day visit is the first by a Chinese head of state to Cambodia in 12 years and was called "a complete success" in the joint statement, which said that "it is of great practical and long-term strategic significance for China and Cambodia to deepen strategic mutual trust and increase practical cooperation".

The joint statement also said the two sides signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation and other documents which include deepening bilateral military cooperation, maintaining contacts between the ministries of defense and military forces, and conducting cooperation in the fields of military training, personnel training, building military academies and schools, and logistical support.

The statement also called on the two countries to further deepen their cooperation in law enforcement and security, and enhance high-level visits and working-level exchanges between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries.