China rejects blame for no joint statement

Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - China yesterday dismissed accusations that it was responsible for the lack of a joint statement after a meeting between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"China believes that at the meeting series of the Asean Regional Forum, parties involved exchanged ideas on East Asian regional cooperation and major regional and international issues," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular news briefing.

"China's views and positions on issues in various fields were well understood and received support from many countries," he said.

Foreign ministers from China and member states of Asean have been debating the language of a joint statement since Monday, in which some Asean members insisted on including content regarding the South China Sea.

The Philippines and the United States have called for a unified Asean to use its collective clout to press China.

However, Beijing insists on dealing with the countries concerned bilaterally and has criticissed outside intervention.

The Philippines lambasted the failure at the end of the talks on Friday, blaming it on China.

It had insisted that the joint statement must include reference to its armed standoff with China last month over Huangyan Island in the South China Sea.

However, there is discord within Asean on this issue.

Hor Namhong, foreign minister of Cambodia, which holds the rotating Asean presidency, said he could "not accept that the joint statement has become hostage of the bilateral issue (between the Philippines and China)".

Thailand's Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said at the East Asia Summit that there might be some sensitive issues and disputes in the region but the meeting will build up trust and confidence in the region to handle the situation.

During the summit this week, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi warned the Philippines that the use of warships in relation to Chinese fishermen in China's waters off the Huangyan Island has sparked a public outcry in China.

Several major industries of the Philippines, including tourism and fruit planting, were heavily hit after its territorial dispute with China escalated in April.

Beijing expects Manila to stop stirring up trouble, Yang said.

Zhang Jie, an expert on Asia-Pacific studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said despite the disputes at the Asean meetings this week, "the atmosphere has been easier than in 2010 and 2011", when the issue was also brought up.

"The US and Asean have adopted a much more friendly attitude toward China compared with the two previous meetings," Zhang said.

The US is a dialogue partner of the Asean as well as a member of the EAS and Asean Regional Forum.

Yang discussed the South China Sea issue, among others, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the Asean meetings in Phnom Penh.

Clinton said that the US was committed to developing a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China.

Collectively, Asean has never taken sides on the South China Sea issue since the forum was set up in 1994, Zhang noted.

Liu said on Friday that amid the global economic turmoil, nations in the Asia-Pacific region should stand closer and join hands to explore growth opportunities within the region.

AFP and ANN contributed to this story.

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