Japan Hosts ASEAN Delegates Seeking to Solve Maritime Disputes

Posted September 28th, 2011 at 2:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Japan on Wednesday hosted delegates from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for talks on simmering tensions in the South China Sea.

The vice-ministerial-level meeting — the third of its kind since 2009 — focused on the need to create consensus on the interpretation of maritime law regarding freedom of navigation.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia all hold conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea — which is thought to hold vast energy and mineral deposits. China lays claim to the entire sea.

The ASEAN delegates agreed with Japan on the need to work together to address the situation. Japan is an associate member of the organization.

Regional tensions came to a head earlier this year, when Vietnam and the Philippines complained of Chinese naval interference with their oil and natural gas exploration efforts within what they claim as their exclusive economic zones. Beijing defended its actions, saying its ships were operating in Chinese waters.

Last week, maritime experts from across the region met in Manila, with preliminary proposals for easing maritime tensions. Under a Philippine plan, claimant countries would define which areas are in dispute and which are not. Exploration could then go forward in the undisputed areas, while disputed territory would be turned into an area of joint cooperation. It is not yet clear how such a formula would deal with China's claims.