2011/06/20

Singapore urges China to come clean in dispute

SINGAPORE, June 20, 2011 (AFP) - Singapore on Monday urged China to be more open about the extent of its territorial claims in the South China Sea, saying Beijing's ambiguity was causing international concern.

The foreign ministry said while Singapore had no claims of its own, the city-state was a major trading nation whose interests could be affected by issues relating to freedom of navigation in the area.

Tensions between China and other rival claimants to the strategically vital South China Sea -- home to two potentially oil-rich archipelagos, the Paracels and Spratlys -- have escalated in recent weeks.

The Philippines and Vietnam in particular have expressed alarm at what they say are increasingly aggressive actions by China in the disputed waters, but Beijing has insisted it is committed to resolving the issue peacefully.

Singapore's statement was issued after a Chinese surveillance vessel, the Haixun 31, docked in the island-state after passing through the South China Sea.

"We... think it is in China's own interests to clarify its claims in the SCS (South China Sea) with more precision as the current ambiguity as to their extent has caused serious concerns in the international maritime community," the Singapore statement said.

"Singapore is not a claimant state and takes no position on the merits or otherwise of the various claims in the SCS," it added.

"But as a major trading nation, Singapore has a critical interest in anything affecting freedom of navigation in all international sea lanes, including those in the SCS."

Manila on Friday said it would deploy its naval flagship to the South China Sea a day after China announced the Haixun 31's mission, while up to 100 Vietnamese rallied outside the Chinese embassy in Hanoi for the third weekend in a row against Beijing's claims.

Vietnam and China have held separate live-fire military exercises in the area after Hanoi accused Chinese ships of ramming one oil survey ship and cutting the exploration cables of another.

The Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam claim all or part of the territories in question.