CHINA’S Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday called on the Philippines and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to unite and resist the intervention of “non-regional forces” in the disputes in the South China Sea.
Without naming any country, Wang, who is on an official visit to Manila, said some forces were out to destabilize the situation in the area where he said tensions had deescalated in recent months.
“If there are still non-regional forces in the region, they don’t want to see stability in the South China Sea and they still want to stir up trouble in the South China Sea,” Wang said at a joint news conference with Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano after their bilateral meeting.
“We need to stand together and we need to say no to them together.”
Wang also expressed hope that the Philippines and China would make a decision to enter into a joint oil drilling in the disputed area, a proposal made 31 years ago by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
“I hope the two sides could make the decision so that the goodwill embodied by Mr. Deng Xiaoping’s proposal 31 years ago could lead to fruition today and benefit the people of both countries,” Wang told reporters.
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippines would be signing a joint venture with China to exploit gas and oil resources in the West Philippine Sea despite the constitutional prohibitions against sharing resources within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“When they start to excavate the gas and oil, it’s going to be just like a joint venture,” Duterte told a news briefing after his second State of the Nation Address.
While there’s no time line yet for the start of the joint venture, Duterte claimed that China already had a “partner” for the joint exploration but did not say who.
“We are there already, they have a partner. I just can’t say who,” Duterte said.
Defying China’s warnings to keep out of the disputed waters, US military vessels, and in a direct challenge to what it calls Beijing’s excessive claims in the waters, have repeatedly sailed within 12 nautical miles of the disputed waters, prompting angry protests from Beijing.
US planes have also flown over the Chinese-controlled areas.
Last week, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop openly criticized China’s island-building in the South China Sea and urged all claimants to respect international law.
China, which considers the sea disputes a purely Asian issue, is opposed to any foreign intervention particularly from the US, accusing Washington of military intervention.
Although the US is not a party to the disputes, it has declared in the past that it is in its national interest to ensure freedom of navigation, trade and peace and stability in the South China Sea, where the bulk of the world’s trade passes through.
China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over 90 percent of the waters, where undersea gas, oil and mineral deposits have been discovered in several areas.
It has also refused to honor the Netherlands-based international arbitral tribunal ruling that invalidated its massive claims to the area. The case was filed by Manila in 2013 under then-President Benigno Aquino III after China seized the Manila-claimed Scarborough Shoal following months of standoff with the Philippines.
But Duterte started making friendly overtures to China when he became Pesident.
His decision to set aside the country’s arbitration victory over the South China Sea territories has improved Manila’s relations with Beijing and allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the Scarborough Shoal as assistance poured in from Beijing.
Wang said the improvement of the ties between the Philippines and China played a “key role” in the return of stability in the waters where Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.
“Through the concerted efforts between China and the Philippines, the situation in the South China Sea is trending towards stability and cooperation and positive elements are increasing,” Wang said.
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