Spratly Islands of China Spratly Islands belongs to China Spratlys - Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands) of China
www.spratlys.org | Spratly Islands Maps | Spratly Islands News | Spratly Islands History | Spratly Islands Forums | Links
Spratlys > News > English News > Nov 2002

Category: @News  @China

China and Southeast Asia to sign Spratlys deal
Reuters - By Dan Eaton - Saturday November 2, 6:44 PM

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - China will sign a landmark agreement with Southeast Asian countries next week on avoiding conflict in the disputed South China Sea, a top official said on Saturday.

A dispute over ownership of the Spratly Islands, claimed entirely or in part by China and several Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, is seen as a potential flashpoint and has brought China and Vietnam to the verge of war.

The leaders of ASEAN and China will sign the deal to govern the conduct of parties in the South China Sea at a meeting in Phnom Penh that gets under way on Monday, said ASEAN Secretary General Rodolfo Severino.

"This declaration that will be issued will embody the measures the countries are taking to avoid the disputes erupting into conflict," he told reporters.

"We have reached a kind of breakthrough with the conclusion of the discussions on a kind of a set of behavioural norms that should govern the behaviour of parties pending the settlement of the jurisdictional and territorial questions."

A copy of the draft agreement seen by Reuters said claimants would practise self-restraint in activity that could spark disputes, such as inhabiting the islands that are believed to be rich in oil deposits.

They will also agree to exchange views between defence officials and give advance warning of military exercises.


The Spratlys are a cluster of dozens of submerged banks, reefs and islets in the South China Sea claimed wholly by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Except for China and Taiwan, which both have permanent installations on the remote reefs, the other claimants are all ASEAN members.

The islands are believed to sit atop vast deposits of oil and natural gas but clashes between Vietnam and China in the 1990s and the presence of numerous naval vessels patrolling the seas have made verification difficult.

The meeting in Cambodia on Monday and Tuesday will be attended by leaders of the 10-nation ASEAN, as well as by China, Japan, South Korea, India and South Africa.

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji arrived in Cambodia on Friday and made a flying tourism visit to the fabled temple complex of Angkor Wat before returning to Phnom Penh for meetings.

After years of wrangling, talks on a code of conduct for the Spratlys gathered pace at an ASEAN meeting in Brunei earlier this year, but a dispute over wording between Malaysia and Vietnam scuppered a deal.

Officials have said that the dispute over wording has since been settled, paving the way for the agreement next week.