China Rules Out U.N. on Islands
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ China on Sunday ruled out any U.N. role in solving its dispute with the Philippines over China’s construction of structures on a reef in a disputed chain of islands.
The tensions increased when China began last year enlarging the structures, which it first built in 1995 and says are shelters for fishermen, on Mischief Reef in the Spratlys chain in the South China Seas.
Manila says the structures could be used for military purposes and that the reefs, about 135 miles west of the central Philippine province of Palawan, lie within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon held one-on-one talks with Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a Manila hotel Sunday. The two sides’ full delegations are to begin two days of talks on Monday.
The talks, which are the countries’ first on the dispute, aim mainly to identify confidence-building steps that would help the two countries resolve their territorial dispute.
President Joseph Estrada discussed the Spratlys dispute in a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York last week. According to Estrada, Annan said he would help find ways of resolving the conflict peacefully.
Asked if China will allow the United Nations to play a role, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the two countries can reach a settlement by themselves.
The Spratlys are believed to be rich in oil and minerals but the conflicting claims have prevented exploration. Aside from China and the Philippines, the area is also being contested by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.