China open to India’s constructive role in S. China Sea

Updated - September 06, 2016 08:53 am IST

Published - November 06, 2015 12:45 am IST - BEIJING:

China on Thursday said it was open to India’s “constructive and positive” role in cementing peace and stability in South China Sea, following nuanced remarks by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in Kuala Lumpur where he linked an advocacy of “freedom of navigation” with the swift implementation a Code of Conduct in these waters.

“We hope that countries who really care about freedom of navigation in the South China Sea (SCS) can play (a) constructive and positive role” in peace and stability of the region, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying said in response to a question, related to Mr. Parrikar’s observations at the conference.

Freedom of navigation concerns

During his address at the Mr. Parrikar backed the legitimacy of freedom of navigation concerns in the South China Sea — a pet theme of the United States — but fused it with an early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC), of which China has been a strong advocate.

In 2002, China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) had signed a Declaration of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) with a view to promote confidence building measures and setting the stage for a binding COC.

Analysts point out that instead of taking sides, the DOC and COC are attempts at rule based management of potential conflicts in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

Mr. Parrikar had hoped that all parties to the South China disputes would abide by the DOC. Besides, he advocated that based on consensus, the COC should be concluded at an early date. China says that the nine-dash-line defines its maritime boundaries in the South China Sea — a view that is contested by Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

On her part, Ms. Hua said China and ASEAN countries have actively pursued full and effective implementation of the DOC and advancing negotiations on the COC.

"Relevant negotiations have made important headway," she observed. During an intervention at the ASEAN Regional Forum in August, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had voiced China’s commitment to “freedom of navigation”. He pointed out that the “majority of Chinese cargo are shipped through the South China Sea, so freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is equally important to China.”

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