With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) vowing to speak with one voice on negotiating a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, Beijing finds its position of working slowly on the matter challenged by the regional group.
China, which has maritime territorial disputes with several ASEAN nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines, has said it is in "no rush" to negotiate a Code of Conduct. This puts it at odds with the Southeast Asian group, which has indicated it wants an early conclusion to the talks.
As ASEAN and China prepare for a foreign ministerial meeting in Beijing this month, the Chinese position is being portrayed in many media stories as a delaying strategy.
Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the department of international strategy at the China Institute of International Studies, explained China's position on this issue during an interview with Voice of America.
"The Chinese side has found out that it has a certain different understanding on the South China Sea COC with other related parties, including ASEAN countries. First, we want the South China Sea COC to provide a relatively good atmosphere to discuss and negotiate future territorial disputes. This is China's basic position. Other parties, however, consider South China Sea COC as an actual method to solve the South China Sea dispute. This is our difference in thinking. We believe that after an agreement is reached on conduct, all parties concerned will follow rules more closely, thus creating a good regional state of affairs, so as to solve the territorial disputes through bilateral talks."
China's rise and expansion of its naval strength has worried neighboring countries. The U.S. rebalance to Asia is seen by many as a balancing force for countries with territorial disputes with China.
Luo Yuan, a popular hawkish military scholar, criticizes the U.S. as being biased and calls the Philippines a "trouble maker."
"The Philippines is playing the role of a trouble maker on the South China Sea. The Philippines attempts to use military means to solve the South China Sea problem. It is simply impossible. The Philippines won't be able to change its balance of power with China no matter how much more weaponry it purchases. We hope the Philippines will walk with China towards the same direction and work to solve the disputes peacefully through negotiations."
The U.S. has said it is neutral in the matter of the maritime territorial disputes and is urging ASEAN and China to settle the issue through peaceful, multilateral negotiations.
But China has said it will only discuss the territorial disputes in bilateral talks.