Beijing welcomes ASEAN summit declaration on South China Sea

Southeast Asian leaders following their retreat in the 30th ASEAN Leaders' Summit held in Manila recently. (AP)
Updated 03 May 2017

Beijing welcomes ASEAN summit declaration on South China Sea

BEIJING: China on Tuesday welcomed a softer stand taken by Southeast Asian countries on the disputed South China Sea at a weekend summit, saying it showed efforts to ease tension were working.
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) dropped references to “land reclamation and militarization” from its chairman’s statement this year at the end of its summit in the Philippine capital, Manila.
The reference had been included last year and was even in an earlier, unpublished version of the statement, seen by Reuters on Saturday.
Two ASEAN diplomats said that this year, China had pressed ASEAN chair the Philippines to keep China’s contentious activities in the strategic waterway off ASEAN’s official agenda.
China is not a member of the 10-member bloc and did not attend the summit but it is extremely sensitive about the content of its statements.
It has often been accused of trying to influence the drafting of statements to muzzle what it sees as challenges to its sweeping sovereignty claim.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not directly answer a question on whether China had exerted pressure over the statement.
“Since last year, with the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries including the Philippines, temperatures in the South China Sea situation have gone down and things have eased up. I think this accords with the interests of countries in the region,” Geng told a daily news briefing.
“The relevant situation at this ASEAN summit again fully shows the positive changes in the South China Sea situation and that the joint wish of countries in this region is to seek stability, promote cooperation and seek development, and this should be respected and supported by all sides.”
China has reacted angrily to individual members of the regional bloc expressing their concern about its rapid reclamation of reefs in the Spratlys islands and its installation of missile systems on them.
Philippine foreign ministry official Zaldy Patron, who is in-charge of ASEAN affairs, said nobody at the summit had pushed strongly on the South China Sea issue, or mentioned anything about land reclamation and militarization.
“But on the other hand, the leaders highlighted improving relations between ASEAN and China,” Patron said in Manila.
The softer statement comes as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte seeks to bury the hatchet with China after years of wrangling over its maritime assertiveness and over-lapping claims.
After lobbying from Duterte, China agreed to let Philippine boats back to the rich fishing ground of the disputed Scarborough Shoal following a four-year blockade.
China claims most of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims that overlap with China’s.


Key hospitals in Indian Kashmir treat more than 150 tear gas, pellet injuries

Updated 14 min 58 sec ago

Key hospitals in Indian Kashmir treat more than 150 tear gas, pellet injuries

  • People gathered in groups despite the ban on public gatherings
  • The government has not provided any number of injuries

SRINAGAR, India: At least 152 people have suffered injuries from tear gas and pellets in disputed Kashmir since Indian security forces this month launched a sweeping crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Indian authorities have deployed additional paramilitary police, banned public gatherings and cut cellular and Internet links to prevent large scale protests after withdrawing the revolt-torn territory’s special status on Aug 5.
Still, people especially youth, have come out in the lanes of the region’s key city of Srinagar, on occasions such as Friday prayers or Eid this month, throwing stones, prompting retaliatory action by security forces.
Data obtained by Reuters showed 152 people reported to Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences and Shri Maharaj Hari Singh with injuries from pellet shots and tear gas fire between Aug 5 and Aug 21.
The government, which has not yet provided any figures of the injured in the sporadic protests, has said there have been no deaths in this month’s demonstrations in a region where more than 50,000 have died since an armed revolt broke out in 1989.
India hopes that withdrawal of special privileges for Kashmir, such as exclusive rights to land, government jobs and college places and opening them up to people from the rest of the country will help to integrate the territory.
Pakistan lays claim to Muslim-majority Kashmir and has condemned the decision to change its status.
A local government official in Jammu and Kashmir, however, said the number of injured was probably higher than the figures from the two hospitals.
Many of those who were discharged within hours do not feature in their list, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, while others, with wounds treated at smaller hospitals, remain unaccounted for.