ASEAN SEEKS CHINA TALKS ON SEA DISPUTE

Washington Times on November 18, 2012, published an AP report on Southeast Asian leaders deciding to ask China to start formal talks “as soon as possible” on crafting a legally binding accord aimed at preventing an outbreak of violence in disputed South China Sea territories, a top diplomat said. Excerpts below:

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations made the decision during their annual summit in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said.

The South China Sea territorial disputes, which many fear could spark Asia’s next war, have overshadowed discussions at the summit, where the top agenda items included human rights and expanding an Asian free-trade area.

Four countries in the 10-member ASEAN — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam — have been locked in long-unresolved territorial rifts with China and Taiwan in the resource-rich waters, where a bulk of the world’s oil and cargo passes.

Since Chinese and Vietnamese naval forces engaged in deadly clashes in the region in the 1970s, the disputes have settled into an uneasy standoff.

But fresh territorial spats involving China, Vietnam and the Philippines starting last year have set off calls for ASEAN and China to turn a nonaggression accord they signed in 2002 to a stronger, legally binding “code of conduct” aimed at discouraging aggressive acts that could lead to dangerous confrontations or accidental clashes in the busy region.

President Obama also would fly to Cambodia to attend on Tuesday the so-called East Asia Summit, an annual forum where ASEAN leaders and their counterparts from eight other nations, including China and the United states, would discuss security and economic concerns. Washington has backed calls for the drafting of a South China Sea nonaggression pact.

Vietnam and the Philippines separately have accused China since last year of intruding into South China Sea islands, reefs and waters they claim and of disrupting their oil explorations well within their territorial waters.

China…claims virtually the entire South China Sea …saying those waters belonged to Beijing since ancient times.

Mr. Obama is expected to reiterate Washington’s call for a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea in Cambodia.

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