China hopes to see ‘specific results soon’

National 2 minutes, 34 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

CHINA hopes “to see specific results soon” from discussions with Brunei on maritime cooperation, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said yesterday.

Wang said joint ventures in the contested waters would send a “positive signal” to the international community that countries could shelve differences for mutual economic benefit.

“We hope by doing so we can create a model for joint development and common prosperity of countries in this region,” he said at a press conference following a day of meetings with senior Brunei officials, including the country’s monarch.

“We have been engaged in active discussions with Brunei on this matter and we hope to see specific results soon.”

China claims a large area of the South China Sea as its sovereign territory, overlapping with partial claims from Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Tensions have escalated in recent years due to increased military activity in the sea, including small skirmishes between claimant states.

Brunei and China signed an agreement on maritime cooperation in 2013, calling for joint exploration and exploitation of oil and gas resources, with the caveat that any cooperation “shall not be interpreted as to prejudice the position of the respective countries in relation to maritime rights and interest”.

Wang said maritime cooperation was integral to the bilateral relationship: “Both China and Brunei are littoral states in the South China Sea and therefore both have stakes in peace and stability in this region.”

“Today we reached a lot of agreement on the situation we face now and how to deepen our cooperation going forward.”

The foreign minister said both countries agreed that the “dual track approach” is the most realistic and peaceful way to handle territorial disputes in the sea.

In the past Brunei described this dual track as the ‘bilateral approach and the regional approach’ – sovereignty claims are discussed and negotiated bilaterally, while the overall peace and stability is upheld by ASEAN and China.

Wang added that certain countries – declining to name any specific nation – were introducing “destabilising elements” to the South China Sea and jeopardising peace. “Any violation of the dual track approach will lead to a situation where ASEAN’s overall interests is impeded or hijacked by certain countries for its own selfish interests and the overall stability might be undermined by the interference by some outside force,” he said.

Manila has brought its dispute with Beijing to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, but China refused to participate in the arbitration, saying the tribunal has no jurisdiction over sovereignty issues.

The US Navy has also carried out “freedom of navigation exercises” in the sea, sailing near disputed islands to underscore its rights to operate in international waters.

Wang called on ASEAN to accelerate talks on the long-stalled ‘Code of Conduct’ – a binding agreement that would govern how claimants behave in the sea, preventing the potential for conflict.

“We call on all ASEAN countries to act together with China with a great sense of responsibility to effectively manage differences and maintain peace and stability in the region by upholding the dual track strategy.”

The Brunei Times