Singapore • A rulebook to settle disputes in the hotly contested South China Sea should be finished in three years, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday, insisting his nation does not seek “hegemony or expansion”.
Li’s comments appeared to be the first clear time-frame for finishing the code of conduct.
Talks have dragged on for years, with China accused of delaying progress as it prefers to deal with less powerful countries on a one-to-one basis.
Ownership of islands and waters in the South China Sea is disputed by several nations.
Tensions have soared with fellow claimants such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan, as well as the US, which has traditionally been the dominant military power in the area.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton told reporters that any code of conduct deal struck between China and South-East Asian nations should not be allowed to restrict access to the sea.
“It also has to be acceptable to all the countries that have legitimate maritime and naval military rights to transit and other associated rights that we don’t want to see infringed.” — AFP