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Territorial rows to overshadow Shanghai forum

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Published : 2014-05-19 21:13
Updated : 2014-05-19 21:13

A much-trumpeted Beijing-Moscow summit, coupled with heightened territorial tensions between China and Vietnam, is poised to steal the limelight when world leaders and policymakers gather in Shanghai on Tuesday for a security forum.

At the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping will address the security situation in Asia and ways to strengthen strategic dialogue and cooperation, Beijing officials said.

At least 46 heads of state and chiefs of international organizations are expected to take part, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The meeting was initiated in 1992 by Kazakhstan to foster trust and prevent conflicts in the region. Its 24 members range from India to Turkey to Thailand, with nine countries and four international organizations acting as observers, including the U.S., Japan and the U.N.

South Korea joined in 2006. Its delegation will be headed by Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae, who is scheduled to deliver a speech on Wednesday.

The two-day forum comes on the heels of a flare-up in tensions in the South China Sea. Beijing’s state-run oil developer began drilling in Hanoi-claimed waters early this month, guarded by more than 70 vessels, including warships, prompting anti-China protests and the evacuation of 3,000 Chinese nationals from the Southeast Asian country.

Despite Vietnamese authorities’ clampdown on protesters, concerns linger that the ongoing drilling will take a toll on not only the two countries’ political and economic ties but also regional peace and cooperation.

Vietnam, also a CICA member, reportedly planned to send Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan. She is forecast to give a speech at the summit.

Ban, for his part, is likely to call for steps to defuse tensions during his four-day stay, and is scheduled to have talks with Xi, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and state councilor Yang Jiechi, who is in charge of foreign affairs.

Early this month, he urged both countries to “exercise the utmost restraint and resolve their dispute in a peaceful manner, through dialogue and in conformity with international law, including the U.N. Charter.

Another focal point will be Putin’s visit and summit with Xi in the Chinese commercial hub, which will coincide with a China-Russia joint naval exercise in the East China Sea.

They are expected to seek to hammer out a deal on Russian natural gas supplies to the world’s second-largest economy, for which the price has been the main sticking point.

If reached, the agreement will provide breathing room for Moscow given Europe’s efforts to curb its reliance on Russian oil and gas in the wake of the Crimea crisis, while beefing up their partnership to counter U.S. influence.

For Ryoo, the conference marks a chance to send warnings to North Korea against another nuclear test and rally support for President Park Geun-hye’s key foreign policy agenda.

“Through the address, the minister plans to emphasize that regional peace and stability is possible only when the situation on the Korean Peninsula is stable, while invoking the member countries’ interest in and support for our unification policy and the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative,” ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)

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