BANGKOK: Asean countries have expressed their concern on the rising tensions caused by the presence of warships in the South China Sea, says Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
“We should lessen the presence of warships in the disputed waters to ensure peace and stability, safety and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
“It is a free passage but when there are too many, we are worried,” he told Bernama here yesterday.
Saifuddin was leading the Malaysian delegation to the 52nd Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting/Post Ministerial Conferences and Related Meetings (52nd AMM/PMC), which ended here yesterday.
He said foreign ministers of the 10-member Asean stressed the importance of non-militarisation in the South China Sea.
According to him, they also exchanged views on the South China Sea at various platforms during the AMM and PMC, as well as with their dialogue partners during the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS).
Tensions flared as China test-fired anti-ship ballistic missiles in disputed areas of the resource-rich waterway last month, while Vietnam accused China of violating its sovereignty by interfering with its offshore oil and gas activities.
In June, a Philippine fishing boat anchored off a disputed seamount – believed to hold large quantities of oil and natural gas – sank after it was rammed by a Chinese boat.
On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Asean and Beijing had completed the first reading of the single draft negotiating text for code of conduct (CoC).
Wang, who was in Bangkok for the annual AMM and PMC, said it was an important progress in the CoC talks and marks a critical step towards the goal of concluding the consultations within three years. Saifuddin also said navigation activities should be reduced in areas of the South China Sea where there were overlapping claims.
“As we discuss CoC, there are also other activities taking place in one or two (disputed) islands in the South China Sea,” he said.
On the 52nd AMM/PMC, Saifuddin said Malaysia had put forward its interests and views on matters relating to regional and international issues of common concern.
“We have a good outing.Asean is an important platform to talk and discuss world peace and international trade,” he said.
Saifuddin also held bilateral meetings with his counterparts on the sidelines of the 52nd AMM/PMC to discuss issues on bilateral relations, regional cooperation, the South China Sea, the situation in Rakhine state as well as regional security. — Bernama