Chinese experts call for talks on South China Sea issue

09:54, June 25, 2011      

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China opposes attempts to internationalize the South China Sea issue, which could jeopardize peace and stability in the region, China's international relations experts said on Friday.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters," said Ma Zhenggang, former president of the China Institute for International Studies.

China would like to resolve disputes with concerned parties through direct bilateral negotiations, he said during a press briefing on China's foreign policy.

Ma said the region's rich reserves of oil and gas are the major reason for the escalation of tension in the South China Sea. The United States' attempt to step up its presence in the Asia-Pacific region is also a factor, he said.

"Some Western experts have said that the United States regards the issue as an important starting point for its 'back-in-Asia' policy, while other countries that wish to confront China are pinning their hopes on U.S. interference," Ma said.

The South China Sea has been part of Chinese territory since ancient times, Ma said, adding that there was no dissension from any country on China's sovereignty over the area until the 1970s.

"In the middle of the 1970s, Vietnam and the Philippines illegally occupied several islands and started exploring for oil and gas, which sparked the dispute," Ma said.

In 2002, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, aiming to maintain peace and stability in the region.

"All concerned parties agreed to resolve disputes via peaceful means, jointly safeguard regional stability and carry out cooperation in that area," Ma said.

The declaration said that concerned parties should not undertake any unilateral activities that might complicate the situation, said Qu Xing, president of the China Institute for International Studies.

"In recent years, some countries have unilaterally conducted illegal oil-and-gas exploration in the area," he said, urging those countries to stop such activities.

China has settled more than 90 percent of its border disputes via peaceful talks, Qu said.

Source: Xinhua
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