China is working on a new plan for international cooperation in the South China Sea and its neighbouring waters in a bid to shore up ties with a number of southeast Asian countries affected by the maritime dispute.
The plan to cover the next five years will focus on partnerships between China and the ASEAN and in East Asia, Chen Yue, deputy directorr, international cooperation, in China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said on Thursday.
Chen did not go into specifics or say when the plan will be unveiled, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
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China is currently entangled in a simmering maritime dispute over the South China Sea with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan who counter its claim over almost the whole of the waterway.
The US waded into the dispute backing the smaller countries to assert their rights against China.
The Philippines petition challenging China’s claims is being heard by a tribunal established under the UN Convention on Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) which is boycotted by Beijing.
The two projects under the new plan are expected to be jointly established by the SOA and the government of southeast China’s coastal Fujian Province as well as the SOA and the government of east China’s Shandong Province, respectively.
Under the previous five-year plan covering 2011 to 2015, China signed 19 intergovernmental and 17 inter-institutional documents on marine cooperation with 15 countries around the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific, according to SOA figures.
China also led, initiated and carried out more than 30 cooperation projects, and offered apparatus for four ocean observation stations for southeast Asian countries including Indonesia and Malaysia, the Xinhua report said.
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During the period, the Chinese government offered scholarships to 71 students from 27 developing countries and regions to study for masters or doctoral degrees in related majors in China, Chen said.