ASEAN, China Mull Hotline for Sea Dispute

ASEAN, China Mull Hotline for Sea DisputeASEAN, China Mull Hotline for Sea Dispute

ASEAN and China are discussing setting up a “hotline” in case of an emergency regarding the territorial dispute over the South China Sea, a Philippine official said on Sunday.

The proposed hotline was discussed during a meeting of senior diplomats from China and ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in Tianjin last week, said foreign department spokesman, Charles Jose, AFP reported.

“Although this was agreed in principle as an early harvest measure, it needs thorough discussion,” he said in a statement.

He stressed the hotline would not be unveiled at an upcoming meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers.

The Philippines and fellow ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims over the South China Sea along with China and Taiwan.

The dispute has grown increasingly tense in recent years with the Philippines at the forefront of accusing China of “bullying” in asserting its claim over the waters which are a crucial sea lane and fishing ground also believed to hold vast mineral resources.

ASEAN, which also includes Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand, has been pushing for the establishment of a “code of conduct” with China that would bind the rival claimants not to take actions that could spark conflict in the region.