PHNOM PENHAsean leaders _ particularly the Cambodian hosts _ were reminded yesterday that not everyone is on good terms with China.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda described relations between Japan and China at the Asean-Japan Summit yesterday as ''difficult'', according to senior Thai official Sihasak Phuangketkeow.
But Mr Sihasak stopped short of saying the discussions between Asean leaders as well as China, South Korea, and Japan were ''smooth and decent''.
There were no bickering or bitter remarks delivered here, said the Thai permanent secretary for foreign affairs, who chaired talks between China and Asean.
However there was disagreement between the Philippines and Cambodia over Manila's dispute with Beijing over claims to territory in the South China Sea.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that he hoped that existing maritime disputes would be resolved peacefully using the six-point principles stipulated in the Declaration on the Conducts of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), Mr Sihasak said.
The DOC reiterates absolute respect for the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), pursuit of self-restraint and renunciation of the threat or the use of force among relevant parties, and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including Unclos.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino, then interjected Mr Sihasak said.
''He said he had heard the Chairman's Statement would refer to the Asean Retreat on Sunday as having reached a consensus not to internationalise the maritime disputes which if this was the case, he would like to raise the issue at another forum.''
On Sunday, Cambodian Foreign Ministry official Kao Kim Hourn told reporters that Asean leaders have agreed not to internationalise the regional maritime dispute, prompting Philippine foreign minister Albert Del Rosario to issue a statement yesterday that ''various views were expressed on Asean unity which were translated by the Chair into an Asean consensus. This was not the understanding of both the Philippines and at least one other country.''
Mr Rosario further said, ''When the Chair in the Asean-Japan meeting alluded to this, President Aquino indicated that the Philippines was not in accord, and that while the Philippines was for Asean unity, it has the inherent right to defend its national interest when deemed necessary.''
The Philippine foreign minister also confirmed Manila's position in a letter to the Chair with copies provided for all other Asean foreign ministers.
In response to reporters' questions about Asean disunity over the issue, Mr Sihasak reiterated Thailand's position that the dispute should be carefully handled. ''Regarding the maritime disputes between the concerned parties, we hold that they should resolve them through diplomatic means but that the safety and security of sea lanes are in the interests of all parties.''
Asked about the Philippines' wish for a meeting between the four Asean countries claiming territory in the South China Sea to reach a ''common position'' on their disputes with China, Mr Sihasak said it was the right of the concerned parties to do so, but hopefully this would not undermine but complement Asean-China cooperation.
Manila has failed to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the 21st Asean summit with Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia _ the other three Asean claimants. However, a meeting between the four countries would take place in December, a Philippine diplomat told the Bangkok Post.
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- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat