FM calls for direct talks in sea disputes

Updated: 2011-10-18 08:41

By Ma Liyao (China Daily)

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BEIJING - China on Monday reiterated its stance of resolving disputes in the South China Sea through talks between nations that are directly involved.

Multinational talks will not help and may make the issue even more complicated, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a daily press meeting.

Liu's remarks came after Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba proposed a multilateral framework to settle maritime disputes in the South China Sea during a tour of Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries.

China has always been against resolving the disputes under a multinational framework. Japan, which is not in the region and has no claim over the South China Sea, is not the first country to propose this process to solve disputes.

The Philippines opposed the latest China-Vietnam joint statement on the second day it was issued and called for a multilateral approach, rather than a bilateral agreement, to resolve disputes concerning the South China Sea.

Having long-standing disputes over sovereignty of part of the South China Sea, China and Vietnam issued a joint statement last week as Communist Party of Vietnam General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong visited Beijing, reaffirming their political will to settle maritime issues through negotiations and friendly consultation.

"The fact that China and Vietnam have agreed to settle maritime disputes through negotiations has nothing to do with a third party," Liu said, adding that the joint agreement is important for guiding the long-term healthy and stable development of bilateral relations and reflects the determination and will of both countries to properly handle disputes.

He also called on other countries to respect nations within the region that "are making efforts to solve disputes through bilateral talks and negotiations".

The Philippines also has some overlapping claims with China over some islands and reefs in the area, which cover more than 3.5 million square kilometers and are believed to hold vast deposits of oil and natural gas.

"China-Philippines maritime disputes can only be resolved through direct negotiations between China and the Philippines, a stance the Philippines is quite clear about," Liu said.

Alongside disputes over the South China Sea, China also has overlapping maritime claims over the East China Sea with Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Sunday in a speech at a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force base north of Tokyo that the national security environment of Japan "has grown increasingly murky due to China's stepped-up activities in local waters and its rapid military expansion, along with North Korea's (the Democratic People Republic of Korea) repeated militaristic provocations".

Asked about Noda's speech, Liu said that China's national defense growth and military modernization are completely in line with the country's needs of maintaining national security.

"As a country that has a population of 1.3 billion and long coastlines, it is reasonable for us to develop our defense strength. It is not targeting any specific country," he said.

Shen Mingchun and Xinhua contributed to this story.