Resolution of Spratlys row ‘a litmus test for Sino-Asian ties’

THE resolution of territorial claims on the Spratly Islands would be a “litmus test” for future relations between Asian countries and China, said Mr Jusuf Wanandi.

“If China is going to solve the problem in the Spratlys by using military force, the trust we have in her will be forfeited,” he said.

Asean Foreign Ministers had asked China to come out in full support of the Manila Declaration on the South China Sea in 1992, which called on the claimants to exercise self-restraint and seek a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

The Spratlys, believed to be rich in oil and marine resources, are being claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

It was normal to look at China as a “problem” and be worried about how to relate to such a powerful country, he said.

“It is a relationship of neighbours who are small with a big country.”

He drew a parallel between Singapore and Malaysia’s ties with Jakarta and China’s relations with Asian countries.

Both countries, he noted, had not “overcome completely” the problem of Indonesia’s Konfrontasi in the 60s.

Mr Wanandi said countries in the region would have to “live” with China.

“All neighbouring countries agree that China has a great role to play in the future of the region and we will have to learn how to relate to her soon,” he said.

“We must establish a relationship with her that makes all of us comfortable.”

Beijing became an Asean “dialogue partner” in 1991, and in July last year, along with Russia and the United States, agreed to join an Asean Regional Forum which aimed to promote dialogue on security concerns. The first meeting will be held in Bangkok this year.

A new bilateral forum was also created last September to expand co-operation in the fields of economy, trade and science and technology.

He said: “Countries in this region have joint exercises with the US Seventh Fleet.

“One day, we will develop such a trust in China that even if they have an aircraft carrier, it will not be a problem for the region.”

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