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India, Japan want peace in South China Sea for region's prosperity

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04 June 2016

India and Japan have called on China to reduce tensions in South China Sea and follow a path of trust-building with littoral states in the Southeast Asia region as peace in the region is in the best economic interests of China also.

Beijing is embroiled in territorial disputes with various governments over its claims over South China Sea.

Speaking at an international security conference in Singapore today, India's defence minister Manohar Parrikar said it's in China's economic interest to reduce tensions in the South China Sea.

He said understanding each other's perspectives and increasing trust between stakeholders will reduce tensions. His Japanese counterpart also emphasized that peace will lead to prosperity.

"It is ultimately economics," Parrikar said. "If you have an unstable region like what we have in the Middle East, I don't think economics and prosperity will really (be) enhanced."

Although the South China Sea disputes do not directly concern India, China is India's neighbour and its traditional adversary, with whom it fought a war in 1962, in which India lost land to China.

Parrikar is on a three-day visit to Singapore from 3 June 2016 for his introductory visit and to attend the 15th Shangri-La Dialogue. The three-day Shangri-La Dialogue is being attended by defence ministers and experts from 50 countries and covers topics that also include terrorism, cybercrime and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Parrikar said that however small or "however powerful" a country may be, "no commerce or commercial activity takes place in a high tense (region). And I think it is in the interest of everyone, including China, to ensure that the peace remains in this region."

Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said it was "getting increasingly important for all nations in the region to establish the order based on the rule of the law."

Indirectly referring to China, he said, "powerful nations are required to act with self-restraint so as to avoid contingency."

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea as its own, including the maritime zones claimed by other Southeast Asian nations. It has also built airstrips on artificial islands built on once-submerged reefs, in a way that could impede freedom of navigation in the busy sea.

"All of here attending, I ask you which you choose: between the order based on might or the order based on rule?" said Nakatani. "I believe the order based on the rule is the one which could lead us to sustainable prosperity."

"There are some unilateral activities and claims by a nation that asserts power."   Nakatani said rebuking Beijing and expressing the views of its neighbors.

"Any activities that go against the international laws… we are very concerned about such situations."

The United States and other Western powers also ramped up calls for China to respect an impending ruling from a Hague tribunal on Beijing's broad maritime claim to the South China Sea, even though Chinese authorities have boycotted the proceedings and called them illegal.

US defence secretary Ash Carter said China risked erecting a ''Great Wall of self-isolation'' by taking expansive and unprecedented actions in the South China Sea.





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