SINGAPORE Jun 20 Singapore said on Monday that
China should clarify its claims to disputed islands in the South
China Sea and urged all parties to act with restraint amid the
biggest flare-up in regional tension in years over competing
maritime sovereignty claims.
The rare comment from Singapore, a non-claimant to any of
the islands, came as one of China's biggest civilian maritime
patrol ships, the Haixun 31, docked in the city-state.
"We have repeatedly said that we think it is in China's own
interests to clarify its claims in the South China Sea with more
precision as the current ambiguity as to their extent has caused
serious concerns in the international maritime community," the
foreign ministry said.
"This is precisely why this port call in Singapore by the
Haixun 31 has provoked such interest," it said in a statement.
"After all scores of vessels from many countries, including
naval vessels, call at Singapore every day without arousing the
China and Vietnam have hurled accusations at each other for
weeks over what each sees as intrusions into its territorial
waters by the other in a swath of ocean crossed by key shipping
lanes and thought to hold large deposits of oil and gas.
The past three weekends have seen small numbers of
protesters stage rare anti-China demonstrations in Hanoi.
Beijing said the Haixun 31 left south China on Wednesday. It
was to come to Singapore after passing near the Paracel and
Spratly island groups at the heart of disputes with Vietnam, the
Philippines and other nations.
The Haixun 31 would monitor shipping, carry out surveying,
inspect oil wells and "protect maritime security", the official
Beijing Daily said -- steps that could lead to confrontation
with other countries pressing claims in the sea.
It also said it would carry out inspections of foreign
vessels anchored or operating in waters claimed by China.
China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all
claim territory in the South China Sea .
China's claim is by far the largest, forming a vast U-shape
over most of the sea's 648,000 square miles (1.7 million square
km), including the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos.
"It is our hope that parties to the disputes in the South
China Sea will act with restraint to create conditions conducive
to the peaceful settlement of these disputes and the
continuation of peace, stability and growth," the Singapore
(Reporting by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Alex Richardson)