China wants military drills with ASEAN in disputed sea, excluding US

Saul Bowman
August 5, 2018

ASEAN members Cambodia and Laos, which are known China allies, have opposed the use of strong language against Beijing over the disputes.

Singapore's prime minister said on Thursday he hoped to complete by the end of the year a massive China-backed regional trade pact that has taken centre stage as Washington embarks on a unilateral, protectionist agenda.

Beijing s suggestions, which also call for joint oil and gas exploration, are part of efforts to expand its influence in the South China Sea, which it claims nearly entirely, and push back at Washington which has backed countries with overlapping claims to the waters.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday announced a new $300 million fund for security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region where Washington and Beijing are competing for influence.

Some of the ministers, however, were expected to repeat their concerns over China's transformation of seven disputed reefs into man-made islands, including three with runways, which now resemble small cities armed with weapons systems, including surface-to-air missiles.

Beijing has asserted its right to send military assets through these waters because it considered them part of its sovereign territory, but the US does not recognize these claims and has sent rival naval patrols to stake its own position.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano invited Iran to participate in the Philippines' "Build, Build, Build" program, as he met with his Iranian counterpart on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Singapore.

Over the past 15 years since the establishment of the China-ASEAN strategic partnership, Wang said China-ASEAN relations have developed from growth to maturity, thus entering a new phase of all-round development. "We believe that without any disturbances from the outside, COC (code of conduct) consultations will accelerate", Wang said.

Other Asian and Western nations have weighed in on the territorial conflicts, calling for the rule of law to be upheld and the disputes to be resolved peacefully, and not by force or intimidation.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini expressed hopes that negotiations would lead to a legally binding code of conduct that would uphold worldwide laws and principles like freedom of navigation. "We will work with all partners who are willing to engage us, share technology, best practices and failures so that we don't repeat mistakes".

He exchanged views on bilateral cooperation and regional developments, particularly Syria.

MALAYSIA is looking forward to the expedition of the agreement on the Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea, said Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

Washington has also been stepping up pressure on Beijing on the military front following the Trump administration's decision to list China as one of America's greatest rivals in his national security strategy previous year. The South China Sea is considered a powder keg in a region where varying claimants have had armed confrontations.

Singapore holds the Asean chairmanship for 2018.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article