Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Vietnam’s PM calls for ‘self-restraint’ in South China Sea

Reuters, SYDNEY

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, left, speaks with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Vietnam and Australia yesterday called for “self-restraint” in the South China Sea and warned against the unilateral use of force, an obvious reference to China’s increasingly aggressive presence that has stirred concerns across the disputed region.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met Australian counterpart Tony Abbott in Canberra, where they were due to sign a deal on issues including security and climate change.

Vietnam and other wary Southeast Asian nations have criticized China’s controversial policy of land reclamation on disputed isles in the South China Sea. Beijing in turn has said it is not seeking to overturn international order.

Dung told the Australian parliament there was an imperative need to draw up a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

“We agreed ... [to] exercise self-restraint and refrain from actions that may escalate the tension in the region, including the use of force to unilaterally change the status quo,” Dung said.

China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash dotted line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines also have claims to parts of the potentially energy-rich waters that are crossed by key shipping lanes.

Beijing is committed to working toward regional stability, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said when asked about the statement.

“We hope the relevant countries in the region can come together with China,” spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said at a regular briefing. “We hope that countries outside the region maintain a neutral position, particularly on the issue of sovereignty.”

Last week, China expressed its anger at the Vietnamese head of ASEAN for comments he made on the South China Sea, rejecting Chinese claims based on the nine-dash line.

Australia and China sealed a free-trade agreement in November last year that significantly expands ties between them.

Dung said Australia and Vietnam are also committed to working together closely and deepening their friendship.

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