News / Asia

Singapore Urges Beijing to Spell Out China Sea Claims

Singapore Urges Beijing to Spell Out China Sea Claims
Singapore Urges Beijing to Spell Out China Sea Claims

Singapore is urging China to spell out its territorial claims in the South China Sea with more precision.

In a formal statement Monday, Singapore's foreign ministry said it is in China's own interest to clarify the extent of its claims, saying the current ambiguity is causing concern among other maritime nations.

Disputes in the South China Sea

1988, March - China sinks three Vietnamese vessels near the Spratly Islands, killing more than 70 Vietnamese.

1991 - China passes the Law on Territorial Waters and Their Contiguous Areas, laying out its claim to territorial sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

1995, 1999 - The Philippines discovers Chinese constructions on Mischief Reef, an island located in the Spratly Island chain. Despite efforts to resolve the dispute, more structures are found on the reef in 1999. Manila says the structures are a military installation while Beijing says they are for fishermen.

2002 - China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations sign a non-binding Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

2009, March – Chinese ships and fishermen harass a U.S. naval vessel in the South China Sea. According to the Pentagon, the Chinese vessels harassed the Impeccable, about 120 kilometers off Hainan island, south of China.

2011, May – Chinese vessels cut an exploration cable on a Vietnamese oil survey ship in waters, within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone.

2011, June - The Philippines complains that Chinese ships offloaded building materials and erected marker posts on reefs to the west of its island of Palawan, within Manila's exclusive economic zone.

The statement comes as Singapore plays host to a port visit by the Haixun 31, one of China's largest naval patrol ships. It is the first time a major Chinese navy vessel has visited another country.

Singapore stressed that is has no claims of its own in the South China Sea and that it takes no position on the conflicting claims of China and five other governments. But it said that as a major trading nation, it has a critical interest in maintaining free navigation through the area.

China is engaged in diplomatic squabbles over recent incidents in waters claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines as part of their exclusive economic zones. China in each case claimed the incidents occurred in areas under Chinese administration, without saying specifically how far those areas extended.

China's claims are based in part on a centuries-old map which shows a broken line encircling most of the South China Sea. Vital shipping lanes run through the sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves.

Singapore said Monday the tensions could be eased by the conclusion of guidelines for implementing a code of conduct on South China Sea disputes. Agreement on the guidelines has been held up since the code was negotiated in 2002.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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