China is in no rush to sign a proposed agreement on maritime rules with Southeast Asia which would govern behaviour in the disputed South China Sea, the Chinese foreign minister has said.
After years of resisting efforts by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to start talks on the proposed Code of Conduct (CoC), China said it would host talks between senior officials in September.
Speaking in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said on Monday that more work on the CoC was needed.
Certain countries are hoping that the CoC can be agreed on overnight. These countries are having unrealistic expectations.
"China believes that there should be no rush. Certain countries are hoping that the CoC can be agreed on overnight. These countries are having unrealistic expectations," China's official Xinhua news agency paraphrased Wang as saying.
Previous efforts to discuss the Code of Conduct had failed "due to disturbances from certain parties", Wang said, without naming any countries.
"Instead of making disturbances, parties should make efforts that are conducive to the process so as to create the necessary conditions and atmosphere," Wang said.
Tensions over resources
Friction over the South China Sea, one of the world's most important waterways, has surged as China uses its growing naval might to more forcefully assert its vast claims over the oil- and gas-rich sea, raising fears of a military clash.
Four ASEAN nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have overlapping claims with China.
China and the Philippines accuse each other of violating the Declaration of Conduct (DoC), a non-binding confidence-building agreement on maritime conduct signed by China and ASEAN in 2002.
Such differences could be another obstacle to agreeing on a more comprehensive pact as China has stressed that countries must first show good faith by abiding by the DoC.
Critics say China is intent on cementing its claims over the sea through its superior and growing naval might, and has little interest in rushing to agree to a code of conduct.