China is hopeful for “new progress” to be made in ongoing talks with the Asean bloc for a code of conduct governing the disputed South China Sea, Premier Li Keqiang said at a summit on Sunday, as other regional leaders called for countries to exercise restraint over the row.
Li’s comments at the twice-yearly Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting comes amid flaring tensions between Vietnam and Beijing over the dispute triggered by a Chinese oil survey vessel that remained within waters claimed by the Southeast Asian country for more than three months.
“We stand ready to work with Asean countries building on the existing foundation and basis to strive for new progress in the [code of conduct], according to the three-year time frame, so as to maintain and uphold long term peace in the South China Sea,” Li said at the start of a plenary session with the 10 Asean leaders.
Li said Beijing was committed to maintaining “political mutual trust” with the Asean bloc, adding both sides “support stability in the region”.
He lauded the first reading of the draft text for the South China Sea code of conduct earlier this year as a landmark in the efforts to enact a system to manage and resolve disputes in the strategic waterway, one of the world’s busiest.