ASEAN Opens Maritime Forum Amid South China Sea Disputes

Posted July 27th, 2011 at 6:40 am (UTC-5)
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Naval chiefs from the ASEAN member states are meeting in Hanoi to discuss regional maritime security issues, including a territorial dispute between some ASEAN nations and China.

Malaysia's top naval commander, Admiral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, urged China to “respect the sovereignty and integrity” of regional nations during the session Wednesday. Vice Admiral Alexander Pama, commander of the Philippine navy, was quoted as saying ASEAN solidarity is key to solving the nations' conflicting claims in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims sovereignty over the entire sea, putting it at odds with ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, which claim waters adjacent to their shores. Vietnam and the Philippines say Chinese naval vessels have interfered with oil and gas exploration in waters they claim as their exclusive economic zones.

The region is also home to one of the world's most important commercial shipping lanes.

The disputes dominated this month's annual meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers at the Indonesian resort of Bali. During the meeting, ASEAN and China reached agreement on a set of guidelines that could eventually lead to a binding code of conduct for handling South China Sea disputes.