Shared destiny for Asia: FM

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-7 0:48:01

Kerry slams ‘sea restrictions’ during ASEAN meeting

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting Thursday in Kuala Lumpur, proposed the creation of a community of shared destiny in South and East Asia.

Wang on Thursday called on the 10-nation bloc, together with China, Japan and South Korea, to build a community among ASEAN and East Asian economies to create this vision.

Wang listed six initiatives on boosting regional cooperation, including establishing free trade zones, and cooperation in finance, agriculture, industrial infrastructure and maritime affairs as well as cultural and people-to-people exchange.

"Currently, cooperation in eastern Asia is on the rise, with various development proposals coming up. [The region] is becoming an inseparable community of common interest. The 10-nation bloc, together with China, Japan and South Korea, is experiencing an historic opportunity," Wang said.

As Wang emphasized positive regional interaction, US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday accused China of militarization and raising tensions in the South China Sea, saying that the US would not tolerate any restrictions to navigation and flights in the region.

Addressing the meeting of foreign ministers, including Wang, Kerry said China's construction of facilities for "military purposes" on man-made islands was raising tensions and risked "militarization" by other claimant states, according to a Reuters report.

"Let me be clear: The United States will not accept restrictions on freedom of navigation and overflight, or other lawful uses of the sea," Kerry said. "Despite assurances that these freedoms would be respected, we have seen warnings issued and restrictions attempted in recent months."

Dominated agenda

The South China Sea dominated the agenda of the ASEAN meeting that started Tuesday. Wang on Wednesday said Beijing has halted land reclamation activities in the South China Sea, and called on countries in the region to speed up talks on a code of conduct for claimants in the region.

"What Kerry was implicitly referring to was US military interests in the South China Sea, instead of navigation for commercial purposes," said Xu Liping, a professor at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). 

"But using the general term of navigation freedom will help the US in drawing support from related countries," he told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the crew of a US P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft when it conducted overflights in the area in May, according to CNN, which was aboard the US aircraft.

There has been no official response from Chinese officials to Kerry's comments. But analysts believe that such remarks are not new and are relatively moderate.

"Kerry's remarks in the last two days, which have been rather moderate, show that the US is trying to use the regional meeting as a platform to reaffirm its stance, so as to establish credibility among its allies in the region," Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, told the Global Times.

Wang met Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday on the sidelines of a series of regional meetings.

During the meeting, Kishida expressed concerns over China's oil-and-gas exploration in the East China Sea, while Wang stressed that the world is watching how Japan deals with its wartime history.

He said Japan's recent change in security policy has caused concern among its neighboring countries, according to Kyodo News and People's Daily reports.

Japan unveiled last month a map and aerial photos of 12 offshore structures as proof of China's unilateral gas field development near the median line between its shoreline and that of Japan in the East China Sea.

In May, Japan and the Philippines conducted joint naval drills in the South China Sea. 

Differing stance

Some members of the ASEAN expressed "serious concerns" about land reclamation in the South China Sea in the final communique issued at the end of talks in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

According to a draft of the final communique seen by Reuters, it also says that China and ASEAN countries would proceed to the "next stage" of consultations on a code of conduct that is intended to bind them to detailed rules of behavior at sea.

"The main goal for the majority of countries is to expand the ASEAN bloc's economy and establish the ASEAN Community by the end of this year, so they are likely to remain neutral on the issue, instead of blindly following the US," said Wu.

Agencies contributed to this report

Posted in: Diplomacy

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