A senior Chinese diplomat urged Singapore to stay out of South China Sea disputes at a meeting involving China and Southeast Asian countries.
The remark was made as China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations made progress on Tuesday towards adopting a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea.
Liu Zhenmin, China’s vice-foreign minister, said after the meeting in Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia that China and Asean had agreed to release a joint statement on the application of a Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.
However, in a veiled criticism of Singapore’s stance on South China Sea disputes, Liu also said China wanted the city-state to adhere to its neutral stance on the issue.
“As Singapore is not a claimant in the South China Sea, we hope that the Singapore government, on the condition of not interfering in South China Sea issues, will actively promote cooperation between China and Asean,” said Liu.
Singapore is currently the coordinator of Asean-China dialogue.
Liu said China and Asean have also agreed in principle to set up a hotline among Chinese and Southeast Asian senior officials to manage maritime emergencies in the South China Sea.
Agreements at the meeting will be submitted for final approval by China and Asean nation’s state leaders, who will meet at a regional summit in Vientiane, Laos, next month.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said during a visit to the US earlier this month that the South China Sea ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration has defined, in a powerful way, all countries sovereign claims.
Lee added that Singapore calls for all countries to respect international law and accept the ruling.
The Hague tribunal dismissed China’s claims to most of the South China Sea.
China refused to take part in the hearings and has rejected the court’s findings, saying it had no legal jurisdiction to hear the matter.