Mon, Aug 03, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Emergency ‘hotline’ for South China Sea under consideration

AFP, MANILA

ASEAN and China are discussing setting up a “hotline” in case of an emergency regarding the territorial dispute over the South China Sea, a Philippine official said yesterday.

The proposed hotline was discussed during a meeting of senior diplomats from China and ASEAN in Tianjin, China, last week, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

Jose, whose country is one of the most vocal in the dispute over the contested waters, said the matter had been referred back to a joint working group and was still far from fruition.

“Although this was agreed in principle as an early harvest measure, it needs thorough discussion,” he said in a statement to reporters.

He stressed the hotline would not be unveiled at an upcoming meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers.

Taiwan and China, as well as ASEAN members the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, have competing claims over the South China Sea.

The dispute has grown increasingly tense in recent years with the Philippines at the forefront of accusing China of “bullying” in asserting its claim over the waters, which are a crucial sea lane and fishing ground also believed to hold vast mineral resources.

In recent months, the Philippines has raised the alarm over China’s land reclamation to turn outcroppings in the sea into artificial islands that can host military outposts.

ASEAN has been pushing for the establishment of a “code of conduct” with China that would bind the rival claimants not to take actions that could spark conflict in the region.

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