China issues guidelines to ease South China Sea tensions


China has unveiled rules aimed at easing territorial disputes with southeast Asian nations with an official newspaper placed much of the blame for recent tensions in the South China Sea on U.S. trouble-making.

The Foreign Ministry issued the guidelines agreed at a regional meeting in July, when Beijing, southeast Asian governments and Washington sought to cool friction over rival Asian claims in the South China Sea.

The People’s Daily, the paper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said issuing the rules promoting cooperation showed that Beijing was sincere about resolving the maritime tensions. The guidelines were issued on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website ( late on Monday, Reuters reports.

But commentaries in the newspaper stressed how distant a lasting solution to the sea disputes remains, and said China would not retreat from its own wide territorial claims in the sea.
“While promoting peace, stability and progress in the South China Sea, China will adhere to the fundamental principle of protecting its sovereignty,” said a commentary in the paper, which reflects official thinking in Beijing.

The paper placed much of the blame for recent tensions on Washington, rather than southeast Asian nations which China has sought to court with vows of business, investment and stronger transport links.
“The United States is the dominant military force in this region, and its trouble-making over the South China Sea issue has made the problems more complicated,” said a commentary in the paper.

China, Taiwan, and four ASEAN members — the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam — claim territory in the South China Sea.

Washington has upset Beijing by saying it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and trade in the sea, and by supporting a collective solution to the disputes, an approach opposed by China.

China says it has exercised sovereignty over large parts of the South China Sea since ancient times, and is adamant about not involving outside parties to help resolve disputes.

Tensions over rival claims in the sea flared in June, setting China against Vietnam and the Philippines, and raising the risk of confrontation with the United States.