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Philippines urged to act cooperatively

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

08:35, July 04, 2012

China on Tuesday urged the Philippines to act in a manner that contributes to regional stability, in response to the Philippine president saying he may ask the United States to deploy spy planes over the South China Sea.

"We hope the relevant party will do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily news conference.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino told Reuters on Monday that the country may ask the US to deploy spy planes over the South China Sea to help monitor the disputed waters.

"We might be requesting overflights on that," said Aquino, referring to US P-3C Orion planes. "We don't have aircraft with those capabilities."

The request "is just for monitoring and surveillance purposes", Ramon Carandang, a Philippine presidential spokesman, told AFP.

Aquino's statement comes two weeks after Manila withdrew a coast guard ship and a fishery bureau boat that were involved in a standoff with Chinese ships in the waters off Huangyan Island in the South China Sea.

The US stressed its neutrality in the maritime dispute but offered help to the military forces of its formal security treaty ally and former colony in Southeast Asia.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland refused to comment specifically, but said that "as part of our long-standing cooperation, the US supports the Philippines in enhancing its maritime awareness".

Manila has been looking to Washington for ships, aircraft, surveillance equipment and other equipment as the US refocuses its military attention on the Asia-Pacific region. Manila has offered Washington greater access to airfields and its military facilities in exchange for more equipment and frequent training. According to the Philippine Star, the militant group Bayan on Tuesday expressed its objection to Aquino's proposal, for fear that the country might end up as a virtual base for US spy planes.

When asked if China was concerned about touching on the topic of the South China Sea issue during the forthcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional forum and post-ministerial conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Liu said the meeting should be a platform for related countries to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation, instead of a place in which to discuss the South China Sea issue.

China hopes to exchange views with concerned parties on China-ASEAN relations, East Asia cooperation and Asia-Pacific security cooperation to boost regional stability and prosperity, and prepare for a series of meetings of East Asian leaders in November.

"Currently, the South China Sea situation is generally stable. China's communication with related countries is efficient, and we would like to continue dialogue and consultation with them to peacefully resolve the issue," he said.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is expected to attend the meeting and talk with his counterparts, including those from the US, Russia and Cambodia.

The South China Sea issue will not be the priority at the meeting, said Luo Yongkun, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

The emphasis is supposed to be on Asia-Pacific security issues, including Pyongyang's nuclear issue, and the development and integration of the ASEAN countries, he said.

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