Outsiders should not try to interfere in South China Sea issue: Cambodian official, experts

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(Xinhua/Li Ziheng)

PHNOM PENH, July 30 (Xinhua) — Cambodian government spokesman and experts have said that outsiders should not try to interfere in the South China Sea issue, saying that their interference is “harmful, not helpful.”

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Monday that the current situation of the South China Sea is stable, but envisages that there can be tensions if there is continued interference from the outsiders.

“The outsiders should not continue to stir up troubles in the South China Sea under the pretext of freedom of navigation,” he told Xinhua. “Any interference from the third party or outsiders not only affects joint efforts made by China and ASEAN countries, but also sparks confrontations in the South China Sea.”

The spokesman said Cambodia wants all parties directly concerned to exercise their utmost restraint and continue to resolve their disputes by peaceful negotiations.

“So far, China and ASEAN have made steady progress in negotiating the Code of Conduct (COC), and we encourage all parties concerned to continue their peaceful negotiations for the sake of peace, stability and development in the region,” Siphan said.

Joseph Matthews, senior professor at the BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh, said currently, the situation in South China Sea is more stable and peaceful comparing to the situation a few years ago.

The third party’s interference in the dispute has never been helpful, said Matthews, adding “it was more harmful than any good, so the country or countries outside the disputed realm should stay out of the conflict and don’t try to be a part of something that even not concern to you directly or indirectly.”

Matthews said so far, the negotiation on the COC in the South China Sea is going quite well and they need to maintain the momentum and conductive environment for negotiation.

“The swift conclusion of a meaningful COC will contribute to trust building, peace and stability in the region,” he said.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute, said practical cooperation and the negotiation of COC need to be accelerated in order to reduce misunderstanding and tensions, and build strategic trust, especially between the claimant states.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute Cambodia of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said on Tuesday that the South China Sea dispute has been seen bigger than the dispute itself in nature due to interference from the outsiders and the distortion of Western media.

“The outside interference not only damages the joint effort to realize the COC, but also brings about friction between ASEAN member states and China, and among ASEAN member states, and destroys enormous benefits gained from ASEAN-China relations,” he told Xinhua.

“The South China Sea issue should not be focused by other uninvolved countries since there are so many issues that is much more important than the South China Sea issue to the ASEAN people, ASEAN countries and also to China,” he said. “Outside countries should stay away from the issue and should not make irresponsible remarks over the issue.”

Phea said China, Cambodia and ASEAN have been committed to maintaining peace, security and stability in the South China Sea and to sustaining the enormous interest for the whole region generated from good cooperative relations and mutually beneficial strategic partnership between ASEAN and China.

“It’s imperative that the parties directly involved to continue to settle the dispute by peaceful means,” he said.

He added that the concerned states should continue using the ASEAN-China mechanism for the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea and ASEAN and China should further work together to realize the COC.

“Political trust, mutual learning, mutual respect, and mutual interests are basic foundations of realizing the prospective COC,” he said. “The generally friendly and increasingly close relations between China and ASEAN and between China and ASEAN individual member states should not be clouded by South China Sea issue.”

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