Premier Li: China Wishes for a Stable and Peaceful South China Sea
By Mei Manuel, March 16, 2017 00:03 AM
On Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stressed that China hopes that peace and stability will remain in the South China Sea and said that they are pushing forward with negotiations for the creation of the code of conduct for all claimant countries to follow regarding the area.
In his press conference after the parliament meeting, Li said that a "substantive progress" is now made for the code's draft.
The code of conduct has been on negotiations since 2010 between China and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in order to reduce tensions regarding the South China Sea.
Last week, Foreign Minister Wang Yi reported that the first draft of the code is done and the tensions in the region have decreased dramatically.
China lays claim to almost all the areas of the South China Sea, an important trade route in the region. Aside from China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also stake claim to other areas of the South China Sea.
Li also reiterated China's stance that the issue is a regional affair that should be "decided and resolved by the countries directly involved."
"China does not want to see any party feeling compelled to choose sides under the influence on a Cold War mentality."
China has long received criticisms from the US regarding its construction of man-made islands and military facilities in the disputed waters and said it may pose threats to freedom of navigation.
Li said that China and the United States could widen areas of cooperation in the Asian-Pacific to provide opportunities to ASEAN countries "instead of making ASEAN countries feel that (U.S.-China interaction) might be a source of trouble."
He did not speak the US stance on the disputed area in his statement.
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