Sea row looms as Asean talks begin

August 09, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Southeast Asia started talks yesterday as China faces demands to cease provocative behaviour in disputed waters and host Myanmar falls under the spotlight over concerns about its reform progress.

Myanmar President Thein Sein began the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign minister meetings with a plea for the regional bloc to strengthen its ability to push for “peaceful settlement of disputes and differences”.

“The current developments in the world are causing serious concern to us,” he added, without giving examples, in a speech in the capital Naypyidaw.

Recent acts by Beijing in the South China Sea, including the positioning of an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam, have sparked a fresh spike in regional tensions.

The sea, criss-crossed by key international shipping lanes, is thought to hold huge oil and gas deposits and is claimed almost in its entirety by China.

Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim parts of the sea, while Taiwan is a sixth claimant.

“We expressed serious concern over recent developments in the South China Sea, which have raised tensions in the area,” an early draft statement to be discussed said.