World / Asia-Pacific

Philippines' move on sea dispute may flare tensions

By Cheng Guangjin ( Updated: 2012-11-23 16:47

The Philippines will hold talks with three other Southeast Asian nations next month on the South China Sea issue, a move that breaks away from the recent China-ASEAN consensus concerning the maritime dispute.

While the issue concerns territorial disputes with China, analysts warned that the move by the Philippines will further complicate the regional situation.

According to AFP, the deputy foreign ministers of Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines will meet in Manila on Dec 12 as part of Philippine efforts to push for a multilateral solution to their disputes, said Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario Wednesday.

The four members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations have overlapping claims on islands in the South China Sea with China, which insists on resolving the issue through a bilateral approach.

Del Rosario said the four-way meeting was first proposed by the Philippines last year. "We respect what (China) is suggesting, but we do not accept this," del Rosario said.

Analysts warned the move risks escalating tension and harming the cooperative atmosphere among countries in the region.

The recent East Asia Summit focused on regional economic cooperation, with a consensus reached by China and ASEAN saying that the South China Sea issue should not be a barrier to regional cooperation.

Zhang Xuegang, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said tensions have risen as a result of increasing competition over interests in the ocean, but it should not be flared up to harm overall cooperation and regional stability.

In the process of seeking a solution, all parties concerned should respect each other's concerns and be on high alert not to be made a tool to exert pressure on others, Zhang said.

"Maritime disputes should not be prioritized compared with the growing economic interdependence between China and ASEAN countries. The two sides must and are able to deal with each others' interest requests and peacefully co-exist at the same time," Zhang said.

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