KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia – Foreign Minister Anifah Aman of Malaysia on Sunday (August 12th) urged Southeast Asian countries to settle their overlapping claims in the South China Sea before bringing them up with Beijing, AFP reported.
In comments that followed an hour-long meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, Anifah said a repeat of confrontation, such as the June standoff between Philippines and Chinese ships over Scarborough Reef, should be avoided.
"We are confident we can resolve this matter. China is also earnest in its desire in finding solutions...This issue can be settled through peaceful means," he told reporters.
"There are overlapping claims by member countries. Let us discuss these among ASEAN countries first before we talk to China," he added, using the acronym for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
"We can only achieve this objective in the South China Sea if all parties agree. Then China can appreciate this and realise it is ASEAN's wish."
China's foreign minister did not attend a press conference with Anifah but told reporters that China "firmly" supported ASEAN community building.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the resource-rich sea, as does Taiwan. China claims sovereignty over almost all of it.