China's Xi seeks to reassure Southeast Asia on sea dispute

BEIJING Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:23am EDT

China's Vice President Xi Jinping listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (not pictured) in a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, September 19, 2012. REUTERS/Larry Downing

China's Vice President Xi Jinping listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (not pictured) in a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, September 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping sought to reassure Southeast Asian leaders on Friday that his country wanted only peaceful relations with them, following months of growing tensions over the strategically located South China Sea.

Speaking at the opening of a trade fair in southern China for Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, Vice President Xi said China's own prosperity could only be guaranteed by having good relations with its neighbors.

"The more progress China makes in development and the closer its links with the region and the world, the more important it is for the country to have a stable regional environment and a peaceful international environment," Xi said.

"Having gone through numerous vicissitudes in modern times, we are deeply aware of the importance of development and how valuable peace is," he added, according to state media.

Beijing's assertion of sovereignty over a vast stretch of the South China Sea has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to other parts of the region, making it Asia's biggest potential military troublespot.

At stake are potentially massive offshore oil reserves. The seas also lie on key shipping lanes.

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is one of the ASEAN leaders attending the trade fair, held in the city of Nanning.

Xi said China - currently also involved in a dispute with Japan over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea -wanted the peaceful resolution for its diplomatic arguments.

"We are firm in safeguarding China's sovereignty, security and territorial integrity and are committed to resolving differences with neighbors concerning territorial land, territorial sea and maritime rights and interests peacefully through friendly negotiations," he said.

"China's sustained development and prosperity offer an important and lasting window of opportunities to its neighbors, and promise important development opportunities to countries around the world, ASEAN countries included," Xi added.

China has resisted proposals for a multilateral code of conduct for the South China Sea, preferring to try to negotiate disputes with each of the far less powerful individual claimants.

It has also stepped up activity in the region, including establishing a military garrison on one of the disputed islands, and accused Washington of seeking to stir up trouble far from home.

Unprecedented arguments over the sea prevented an ASEAN summit in July from issuing a joint communiqué, the first time this had happened in the 10-member bloc's 45-year history.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Comments (7)
Abulafiah wrote:
Here comes the back-pedalling, now that China has finally noticed that the whole of SEA is against them and inviting the USA in.

What this fool doesn’t understand is that there is nothing to negotiate. The Senkaku Islands are not Chinese, nor are the Spratly’s, so why should anyone negotiate with the Chinese about them? They might as well negotiate with Brazil – they have as much claim to those islands as China has.

What this dishonest individual means is “Please stop uniting against us and inviting the USA to come and defend you against our aggression. We would rather bully you individually”.

Sep 21, 2012 7:51am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Spacetime wrote:
Abulafish wrote:
Here comes the back-pedalling, now that China has finally noticed that the whole of SEA is against them and inviting the USA in.

This guy is good at mixing and messing up concepts. It’s only the Philie boy against China, not the “whole SEA”.

“The Senkaku Islands are not Chinese, nor are the Spratly’s”

You are not the judge, nor your lord the Us. Making this kind of void claim means nothing and is simply ignored. Keep wasting your time as long as you are happy, while just wait to see how China takes the territories back.

Sep 21, 2012 8:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Abulafiah wrote:
Spacetime wrote:
“It’s only the Philie boy against China, not the “whole SEA”.

This condemnation of China from ASEAN (which is, in case you don’t understand, the Association of SEA Nations…) proves you to be factually wrong, again. -> http://cogitasia.com/asean-foreign-ministers-release-statement-on-the-south-china-sea/

Spacetime wrote:
“You are not the judge”

Nor is China. The judge is UNLOS, and it agrees with me.

Spacetime wrote:
“just wait to see how China takes the territories back.”

You say that a lot, but I don’t see it happening. All noise and no action. They are too scared, and Xi Jinping is already backing off.

Sep 21, 2012 9:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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