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'No overt threat' from Chinese push

Publication Date : 11-12-2012


The "threat" from China's push in the South China Sea is "not overt, aggressive and intentional", said Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, even as temperatures rise over territorial disputes in one of the world's busiest waterways.

He was asked to respond to a report that quoted his Philippines counterpart as saying that Manila backed the re-arming of Japan as a counterweight to the growing assertiveness of China.

"Indonesia believes that (any) threat to our region is not overt, deliberate, aggressive (in) intent. I think all of us in this part of the world should be quite reasonable enough to recognise that past decades of peace and stability have brought about economic and developmental dividend," Dr Marty said during a discussion with foreign correspondents.

However, he cautioned, there was a risk of "misunderstandings" that could lead to a "tit-for-tat" situation.

The dispute over mineral-rich territories in the South China Sea, claimed by China, Taiwan and four Asean countries - Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam - has escalated to a point where the 10-member Asean bloc failed for the first time in its 45-year history to agree on a customary joint statement at the end of a summit in July.

Asean leaders are now racing to establish a code of conduct that will determine how spats such as this can be resolved.

Besides staking claims in the South China Sea, China is also disputing Japan's claims over East China Sea islands. Both parties have stepped up patrols there.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan - its World War II foe - as a counterweight to what it sees as Chinese provocation.

"We are looking for balancing factors in the region," he was quoted as saying.

Earlier, China had said it would intercept vessels it deemed as intruding into its territories, provoking strong condemnation from Asean members such as Vietnam. And India has said it is ready to deploy vessels to protect its interests.

Days before, China angered its neighbours by issuing new passports with a country map that included the disputed areas.

Dr Marty urged Asean and China to "proactively" establish a formal code of conduct to make it easier to manage any flare-ups. China has said it prefers to deal with disputes bilaterally.


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