South China Sea: China to boost maritime cooperation with ASEAN


China is working on a new plan for international cooperation in the South China Sea and its neighbouring waters in an attempt to bolster relations with the Southeast Asian countries affected by the maritime dispute. The plan, which will cover the next five years, will focus on partnerships between China and the ASEAN and in East Asia, Chen Yue, deputy director, international cooperation, in China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said on April 28, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Mr Chen, however, did not go into specifics or say when the plan will be unveiled.

The two projects under the new plan are expected to be jointly established by the SOA and the government of southeast China’s coastal Fujian Province as well as the SOA and the government of east China’s Shandong Province, respectively. Under the previous five-year plan covering 2011 to 2015, China had signed 19 intergovernmental and 17 inter-institutional documents on marine cooperation with 15 countries around the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, according to SOA figures.

At present, China is involved in a bitter maritime dispute over the South China Sea with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan which counter Beijing’s claims over almost the whole of the region. Recently, China has agreed with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos that the South China Sea territorial dispute should not affect relations between China and the Association of South East Asian National (ASEAN). Four members of the 10-member ASEAN – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – have rival claims to parts of the South China Sea with China.

Interestingly, out of the three ASEAN member states’ endorsements, only Brunei is a claimant state. However, analysts also feel that the consensus reached by China, Brunei, Cambodia, and Laos indicates that China is succeeding where the US failed.

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