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Asean Demands Maritime Talks
Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/321915/asean-demands-maritime-talks
Source Date: Monday, November 19, 2012
Focus: Citizen Engagement, Institution and HR Management
Created: Nov 18, 2012

PHNOM PENH : Southeast Asian nations displayed a rare show of unity yesterday against China's sweeping maritime claims, calling for the first formal talks with Beijing over a sea dispute that has raised tensions and exposed deep divisions in the region.

As Chinese premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Cambodia for meetings with Southeast Asian leaders, the 10-member Asean bloc appeared determined to avoid a repeat of an embarrassing breakdown of talks in July over competing territorial claims in the mineral-rich South China Sea.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen will tell Mr Wen that Asean wants to begin talks to develop a binding code of conduct, aimed at reducing the chance of naval flashpoints, as soon as possible, Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said.

China's assertive claims in the South China Sea have caused deep divisions within the bloc.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang yesterday said Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who met Mr Wen in the Cambodian capital, also agreed the issue should be properly addressed.

"The two leaders shared the view that [the South China Sea] is not the key issue in the relations of Asean and China and it should not be an obstacle in enhancing those relations," Mr Qin said.

Meanwhile, the Asean leaders have completed "refining and rephrasing" the Joint Statement to Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Declaration of Conducts for Parties in the South China Sea.

The draft declaration would be brought for consultation with Mr Wen before it is announced at the Asean-China summit today, Kao Kim Hourn, Cambodia's secretary of state of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said.

The joint statement was intended to expedite cooperation between the two sides, he said.

Mr Wen arrived in Phnom Penh yesterday for talks with Asean leaders ahead of the broader East Asia summit that includes the United States and Japan, as well as other Asian nations.

Diplomats said the Philippines had also invited fellow Southeast Asian claimant states Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia to separate talks in Manila while will be held later this year or early next year.

"We are trying to make that happen, hopefully in Manila," Philippines foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said.

One Philippine diplomat said the meeting was aimed at resolving issues among the claimant states, such as overlapping economic zones.
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