08/04/2011, 00.00
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South China Sea: Beijing close to a deal with Hanoi but far from Manila

China and Vietnam agree to “peaceful measures” to settle their border dispute through cooperation and bilateral relations. Tensions between Beijing and Manila are up as China threatens the Philippines after Manila builds a military structure on one of the Spratly Islands.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – China and Vietnam appear close to an agreement on solving disputes in the South China Sea “through peaceful measures”. The same cannot be said about China and the Philippines. Beijing has slammed Manila for building a military structure on one of the disputed Spratly Islands, warning the Philippines to expect "consequences." Filipino efforts at solving the dispute Manila “lack sincerity”, a Chinese Communist newspaper said. The situation is bound to get worst since neither side seems willing to budge.

"After seven rounds of negotiations, the two sides have reached a preliminary consensus on a number of issues, such as solving disputes in the East Sea through peaceful measures in line with international law," Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nguyen Phuong Nga said.

The two sides agreed to adhere closely to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) of 2002, avoid any action that might complicate disputes and restrain from using or threatening to use force.

In meeting China’s demands, Hanoi has agreed that issues related solely to Viet Nam and China would be solved bilaterally, while those issues related to other parties would be put into discussion with the parties concerned.

By contrast, tensions remain high between Beijing and Manila. China has criticised the Philippines for building a military structure on an island that is part of the Spratly group. Both countries are also at loggerheads over the Paracel Islands.

Beijing hit out on Tuesday, warning Manila of "consequences." It accused Manila of violating the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct.

It also claimed that proposals by the Philippines at a recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) security forum to make the disputed area into "a zone of peace, freedom, friendship and cooperation," were "just a trick."

Conversely, the Philippines said that it is committed to international law and a peaceful resolution, and that it would raise the territorial dispute with the United Nations.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China has the most extensive claims in the South China Sea. They include the Spratly and the Paracel Islands, which are uninhabited but rich in natural resources.

Claims to the area are also strategically significant not only because of its oil and gas potential but also because of its important shipping lanes.

Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan stand in the way of Beijing’s hegemonic stance. They are backed by the United States, which has its own strategic interests in the area.
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