ASEAN, China desire to take 'constructive approach' to South China Sea dispute: PM Lee

ASEAN, China desire to take 'constructive approach' to South China Sea dispute: PM Lee

Singapore leader Lee Hsien Loong says he is “relieved” the situation between China and Southeast Asian claimants over the South China Sea “has not escalated significantly”.

VIENTIANE, Laos: Terrorism, the Korean Peninsula and “a constructive approach” to South China Sea disputes are all areas the East Asia Summit (EAS) must work closely together to address, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Sep 8).

Speaking at the biannual meeting of 18 nations including the US, China and Russia, Mr Lee said that he was “relieved” the South China Sea issue "has not escalated significantly in the last few months".

“There were worrying signs of things getting worse,” he said. “I welcome initial steps taken to resume dialogue between China and the Philippines.”

“ASEAN and China have also signalled their desire to take a constructive approach,” said Mr Lee. “Yesterday, ASEAN and China issued the guidelines for the 24/7 hotline for maritime emergencies and the Joint Statement on the Application of Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.”

He explained: “These two documents are good confidence‐building measures. But it is still important to have a credible and legally‐binding Code of Conduct (COC).”

“Singapore welcomes China’s commitment to work with ASEAN on a framework for the COC by mid‐2017 and to ‘fast-track’ negotiations on the COC,” said Mr Lee.

On Wednesday, Mr Lee had also suggested that the strained relations between the regional grouping and China due to the disputes could turned to the parties' advantage for economic growth.

FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

At the meeting, Mr Lee also talked about the EAS working together on strategic issues such as terrorism. “Southeast Asia has become a fertile breeding and recruiting ground for violent extremism. Self‐radicalisation is also becoming more common,” he said. “Therefore, we have to be prepared to deal with this and continue to deal with this for a long time.”

“Singapore is doing what we can within our means,” he added. “We have also contributed in kind to the anti‐ISIS Coalition – planners, an Imagery Analysis Team, a tanker refuelling aircraft, as well as a medical support team from next year,” said Mr Lee.

Another development raised was the “series of deliberate and provocative actions” by North Korea. “Singapore takes our international obligations under the United Nations Security Council resolutions very seriously and we will implement them dutifully,” said Mr Lee. “Therefore it is timely for the EAS to also adopt a statement on non‐proliferation.”

He added: “All of us want a region with growth, peace and stability. EAS is the platform that allows us to cooperate and tackle our strategic challenges together.”

“We must continue to preserve its open, inclusive and ASEAN‐centric nature, and keep its current optimal composition so that EAS will remain robust and relevant and we can work together to strengthen the EAS and our cooperation for many years to come," he said.

Source: CNA/mz

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