Charting a sea of peace
Updated: 2013-10-11 07:23
Responding to some remarks on the South China Sea during the East Asia Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, on Thursday, Premier Li Keqiang said that freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been an issue and will never be one.
As part of his address to the EAS, Li's response should dispel the unnecessary concerns over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea that have emerged amid China's disputes with some ASEAN member states. That every year about 100,000 cargo ships freely navigate the waters of the South China Sea is clear evidence of freedom of navigation not being an issue.
Freedom of navigation is, therefore, only a pretext used by some countries to raise the South China Sea issue at international forums like the EAS. Such moves are politically motivated and intended to mislead international opinion.
Li's speech at the EAS embodies China's determination to build the South China Sea into a symbol of peace, cooperation and friendship despite the disputes.
China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have been pushing for negotiations aimed at resolving the disputes peacefully. China and ASEAN member states held two important meetings last month and agreed to work together to effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and hold consultations to forge a binding code of conduct for the South China Sea.
Li's speech at the EAS reiterates China's resolve to properly handle the South China Sea disputes and uphold peace and stability in the region. But, as Li said, the EAS is not the proper forum to discuss bilateral disputes.
Since the disputes involve China and only a few ASEAN member states, Beijing and ASEAN have agreed that they should be resolved peacefully between the disputing countries. Other parties should not get involved in the issue.
As a leaders-led strategic forum and a bridge of cooperation between East Asia and the Asia-Pacific, the EAS cannot be distracted by the disputes in the South China Sea.
The job of the EAS is to promote balanced, inclusive and sustained development of the region. Therefore, it should expand its efforts to build consensus among countries in the region and ensure equality and fair play by following the regional trend of pursuing economic growth.
(China Daily 10/11/2013 page8)