China on Monday pressed for increased “mutual trust and cooperation” among Southeast Asian nations amid flaring tensions over maritime disputes in the South China Sea.
“China hopes the concerned parties take regional peace and stability as a priority and generate more efforts to increase mutual trust and cooperation,” Foreign Ministry Hong Lei said at a press conference on Monday after a meeting between the Philippines and four Southeast Asian nations was postponed.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines were set to hold talks on the Spratlys Islands in the South China Sea and have agreed to set the meeting at a later date after having “scheduling problems”, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
The four countries lay rival claims on the Spratlys but pushed for a united front against China’s growing assertiveness. Beijing, however, prefers to negotiate bilaterally using the advantage of its size.
Tensions in the region flared anew since China issued passports with maps claiming most of the South China Sea and provoked anger from Vietnam as well as the Philippines.
Vietnam’s state-run oil and gas company has accused Chinese boats of sabotaging its exploration cables. China responded by demanding Vietnam to put and end to “unilateral” oil exploration in the disputed waters.