Cooperation can aid peaceful resolution of sea disputes: observers

By Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/9 23:03:41

The Philippines will attend joint military drills held by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the first time later this month in a move that Chinese observers said could lead to a more peaceful and positive resolution of disputes over the South China Sea. 

The October 22-29 drills will be held in the city of Zhanjiang, in South China's Guangdong Province, Philippine newspaper Chinese Commercial  News reported Tuesday, citing Arsenio Andolong, spokesperson of the Department of the Philippine National Defense as saying.

Through the drills, Philippine military will learn more about the Chinese military including methods of dealing and improving unexpected conflicts, Andolong was quoted as saying by the Manila-based newspaper.

Andolong pointed out that Zhanjiang was outside the disputed areas of the South China Sea and the drills would focus on humanitarian relief, the report said.

Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad possibly will be the highest-ranking naval officer to be present at the drills,Andolong was quoted as saying.

The drills in the South China follow two months after "desktop drills" - simulated drills without ground troops - were held in Singapore by China and ASEAN countries in August.

"The drills are a big step to expand our cooperation in the security domain, which is a signal that related countries - especially China, the Philippines and Vietnam - would rather suspend disputes and together eye mutual development," Chen Xiangmiao, a research fellow at the Hainan-based National Institute for the South China Sea told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Our military cooperation with the ASEAN members has been weak compared to that in economic domain," Chen said. 

"An easy start from less sensitive areas may lead us to negotiation and cooperation in disputed areas in the future," he said.

Shen Shishun, an Asia-Pacific expert at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times that military cooperation can deepen bilateral trust and understanding.

Threats to the region remain with the US seeking to contain the development of China in the Indo-Pacific region, Jia Yu, deputy director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs, told the Global Times.

"People in countries surrounding the South China Sea call for peace, stability and development," she said.

At sessions of a June meeting in Central China's Hunan Province, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou and senior diplomats from ASEAN countries agreed their countries would continue to discuss issues including implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, pragmatic maritime cooperation and negotiations on the code of conduct.

All parties will continue their efforts to settle the disputes over the South China Sea through negotiation, keeping disagreements under the control of the rule-based framework, maintaining peace of the South China Sea, according to a document issued by China's Foreign Ministry.
Newspaper headline: Philippines to drill with China, ASEAN


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