Oct 30, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR: Disputes over sovereignty in the South China Sea could
become violent but China and Southeast Asia are showing a sense of
urgency in trying to ease tensions, the ASEAN chief said Tuesday.
divisions about how to handle China on the issue prevented the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from issuing a joint
statement after a July summit in Phnom Penh for the first time in its
But ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said
"good signs" were emerging from informal talks this week in the Thai
resort of Pattaya between the 10-nation bloc and China.
both sides are saying we want to get (a code of conduct) done as soon
as possible because it doesn't serve anybody's interests (to delay).
It's a yo-yo but at least now they agree to talk," he told reporters
after a speech in Kuala Lumpur.
"Both sides display a sense of
urgency that we can't let the world live in this sense of anxiety and
not knowing which direction we are going to go - it could spill out
into the open, it could become violent."
However, he did not
offer detailed comment on what he expects from an ASEAN summit set for
November 15-20, again hosted by its current chair Cambodia.
said "a flurry of exchanges among senior people in the region" took
place after the July summit in Phnom Penh, leading to a six-point
agreement a week later.
"There has been rather intense communication going on so we can put the issue, at least, under containment," he said.
announced the six principles and vowed to work towards a "code of
conduct" in the disputed sea where tensions have flared, with Vietnam
and the Philippines accusing Beijing of increasingly aggressive
Diplomats had said a key point in the July impasse
was a refusal by Cambodia, a close China ally, to mention bilateral
maritime disputes in a joint statement.
That pitted the current
ASEAN chair against Manila, which wanted a reference to a months-long
standoff with Beijing over a disputed shoal.
"It's a traumatic
experience for ASEAN not being able to issue a joint communique for the
first time in our history," Surin said.
China claims sovereignty
over nearly all of the resource-rich sea, which is home to vital
shipping lanes. But ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia
and Brunei have overlapping claims in the area. -AFP