China ready to speed up talks with Asean over South China Sea
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China ready to speed up talks with Asean over South China Sea

An aerial view of Iroquois Reef, frequented by Filipino fishermen and part of the Philippine 200-mile exclusive economic zone, in the South China Sea, March 9, 2023 (Reuters file photo)
An aerial view of Iroquois Reef, frequented by Filipino fishermen and part of the Philippine 200-mile exclusive economic zone, in the South China Sea, March 9, 2023 (Reuters file photo)

China is ready to work with Malaysia and other Southeast Asian nations to speed up consultation for a South China Sea code of conduct, Xinhua reported, citing Premier Li Qiang.

Beijing is prepared to collaborate to jointly maintain peace and stability of the area, Li was cited as saying during a meeting with visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Saturday. “Asia is our common home and win-win cooperation is the only right choice,” Li was quoted as saying by Xinhua. 

China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as Asean, have been working for nearly 20 years to establish a code of conduct covering the disputed body of water. 

China asserts rights to more than 80% of the South China Sea based on a 1947 map showing vague markings that have since become known as the “nine-dash line”. Tensions have been rising between the Asian giant and other claimants to the area — the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei — as Beijing builds out disputed reefs, islands and land formations and militarizes them with ports, runways and other infrastructure.

Last month, China hit back at the US for expanding military access in the Philippines, saying Washington was trying to “encircle and contain” it.

Li also said, according to Xinhua, that China is ready to work with Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries to actively advance negotiations on the Asean-China Free Trade Area, as well as to jointly implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and promote building the East Asia economic community. 

Meanwhile, Anwar said both Li and President Xi Jinping have agreed to boost trade relations with Malaysia under the Belt and Road Initiative, including expediting the East Coast Rail Link project, Bernama reported. 

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