China stalls on resolving island territory dispute

Jane Perlez / New York Times News Service /

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — China, with its ally Cambodia, on Monday once again stalled plans by Southeast Asian nations to develop a system for resolving disputes in the South China Sea, the strategic and energy-rich waterway where China is at odds with various countries regarding competing territorial claims.

At a private meeting between China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, and the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Hun Sen, Cambodia’s leader and the host of the meeting, read a statement that it was the consensus of the group that the issue of the South China Sea would not be “internationalized.”

But representatives of other countries in the organization disputed the Cambodian statement, which was disclosed by participants and later confirmed by Chinese officials. It was the second time in four months that China appears to have influenced Cambodia, a beneficiary of Chinese development and military aid, to put forward its case.

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