Published: Tue, August 08, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Korea's foreign minister claims S. Korea's offer for talks lacks sincerity

Korea's foreign minister claims S. Korea's offer for talks lacks sincerity

China is anxious it could face fresh criticism over its actions in the South China Sea when Singapore becomes chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations next year, and is putting pressure on the city-state to make sure that doesn't happen, according to people familiar with the situation.

With the rise of a friendly leader in the Philippines, China has been spared a vocal adversary in the disputed South China Sea.

They also mentioned in their statement a vague reference to an worldwide arbitration ruling a year ago that invalidated China's historical claims to virtually all of the strategic waterway.

The regional grouping decides by consensus, and past year Cambodia and Laos, who receive massive aid from China, blocked any mention of the arbitration ruling in the final text.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

Ri's statements came shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Manila on Monday that Washington was still open to talks with Pyongyang as long as the regime refrains from any additional missile testing.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation.

The U.S. also strongly urged the countries at the ARF to thoroughly implement the new resolution.

Kono is also believed to have expressed concerns about Chinese government ships' repeated entry into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands and about China's gas development activities in the East China Sea despite Japanese opposition. For China, it was seen as a diplomatic coup.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday criticized remarks on the South China Sea situation made by Foreign Minister Taro Kono at an global meeting earlier in the day.

"Vietnam is adamant, and China is effectively using Cambodia to champion its interests", one diplomat told AFP on Sunday as negotiations extended into overtime. "At first, words about being non-legally binding, China dropped, just said "OK, approve the framework and go to the COC".

The next battle is over a proposed "code of conduct", which aims to stymie aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, including new construction and military fortifications. China wants otherwise and opposes mention of the contentious issues, including arbitration and a conflict-resolution arrangement, given its preference to solve the conflicts through one-on-one negotiation with its smaller rival claimants.

Critics say Beijing's end game is to either negotiate what amounts to a gentleman's agreement, or stall and buy time to expand its defence capability on its manmade islands.

The agreed framework "is a lowest-common-denominator effort". However, the initial roadmap doesn't say whether the code of conduct will be legally binding or enforceable.

Public traffic was only stopped when the foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as ASEAN, arrived mid-morning Saturday.

Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert based in Hong Kong, said China questions whether Singapore is honest when it says it didn't want to choose between the United States and China.

Topping the agenda are North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile tests, an attempt to temper South China Sea disputes and unease over a siege by pro-Islamic State group militants in the southern Philippine city of Marawi, which has dragged on for more than two months.

"Beijing has made it very clear to Singapore what it expects on the South China Sea issue", said another Asian diplomat in Hong Kong who is familiar with the situation.

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