China snubs S-E Asia push for South China Sea deal
PATTAYA, Thailand (REUTERS) - China is stonewalling attempts to start talks on a multilateral "code of conduct"governing the strategically located South China Sea and an agreement could still be years away, South-east Asian officials said on Monday.
Beijing's assertion of sovereignty over the vast stretch of the water has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to other parts of the region, making it Asia's biggest potential military troublespot.
Speaking on the sidelines of a regional meeting in the Thai resort of Pattaya, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Quang Vinh said there was no end in sight to the maritime dispute involving one of the world's main shipping routes and an area potentially rich in oil and gas.
"Asean thinks it is time to start talks to achieve a code of conduct as soon possible," said Mr Pham, but added the grouping is meeting stoic resistance from China.