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Australia, Singapore urge calm in South China Sea

September 10, 2012
CANBERRA: Australia and Singapore today called for a de-escalation in tensions over the South China Sea, warning that territorial disputes could disrupt decades of peace and economic progress in Asia.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr and his Singaporean counterpart K Shanmugam called for a peaceful and lawful resolution to rows over disputed islands.

“Both Australia and Singapore want to see a de-escalation in tensions,” Carr told reporters after bilateral talks in Canberra.

“We want to see the economic gains that have represented a revolution in Asia, Southeast Asia in particular in the last 40 years, continue undisrupted by a focus on strategic matters.”

China’s claim stretches over most of the South China Sea, a mineral and fish-rich region that is also among the world’s busiest sea passages.

Tensions have become heated this year with Vietnam and the Philippines accusing an emboldened Beijing of unleashing a wave of intimidation to exert its claims to virtually all of the strategic waterway.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Beijing that reaching a code of conduct over the sea was in “everyone’s interest”.

Clinton has voiced hope that China will agree to work out a code of conduct on the disputes and has encouraged Southeast Asian nations to stand united.

Shanmugam said Singapore had been briefed by Chinese officials on Beijing’s position during a visit to China last week and had a “good understanding” of the Asian giant’s perspective which it had shared with Australia.

Carr said Australian officials had found Singapore’s briefing on the Chinese perspective “very useful” and said both Singapore and Australia “have a huge interest in peaceful resolution of these competing territorial claims.”

“Half of our trade flows through the region being discussed,” he said.

“We want the world to continue to be impressed by what free trade, market economics are producing in this part of the world. We don’t want the world to be distracted by a story around territorial disputes.”

Carr said Australia would “continue to talk to the parties and we’ll emphasise that we take no side in the competing territorial claims, but we do urge a peaceful resolution… in accordance with international law.”



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