Restraint urged on Spratlys

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US WARSHIP IN SHANGHAI        American guided missile destroyer USS Lassen, which sailed past  artificial islands built by China in the disputed Spratly archipelago, arrives in Shanghai for a scheduled port visit in this file photo taken on April 8, 2008.  AP

US WARSHIP IN SHANGHAI American guided missile destroyer USS Lassen, which sailed past artificial islands built by China in the disputed Spratly archipelago, arrives in Shanghai for a scheduled port visit in this file photo taken on April 8, 2008. AP

WASHINGTON—Indonesia’s president on Tuesday called for all parties in the South China Sea to exercise restraint and for China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to start discussions on the substance of a code of conduct to manage tensions in the heavily disputed waters.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo was speaking in Washington, hours after a US Navy warship sailed past artificial islands built by China in the Spratly archipelago in a direct challenge to Chinese sovereignty claims, drawing an angry protest from Beijing.

Widodo, who met US President Barack Obama on Monday, did not directly refer to the US action. He said Indonesia supported freedom of navigation but also underlined his nation’s neutrality.

  

Indonesia has islands that may fall within China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, but Jakarta doesn’t count itself as one of the claimants to the disputed islands and reefs.

“Indonesia is not a party to the dispute but we have a legitimate interest in peace and stability there. We call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from taking actions that could undermine trust and confidence and put at risk the peace and stability of the region,” Widodo told the Brookings Institution think tank.

He said Indonesia, the largest nation in Southeast Asia, was ready to play “an active role” in resolving the dispute.

Code of conduct

Asean and China have made little headway in the past decade on negotiating a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea, which is a major conduit of world trade.

China claims virtually all of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, while Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan claim either parts or all of it.

Since 2013, China has accelerated the creation of new outposts by piling sand atop reefs and atolls then adding buildings, ports and airstrips big enough to handle bombers and fighter jets.

Tuesday’s sail-by was Washington’s most significant effort to demonstrate that China’s man-made islands cannot be considered sovereign territory with the right to surrounding territorial waters.

Washington vowed more frequent freedom of navigation patrols were coming.

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/130093/restraint-urged-on-spratlys#ixzz3puqUOq1q

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