MANILA, Philippines ? China called on fellow claimant countries to the Spratlys Islands in the South China sea to enter into a ?joint cooperation? to explore its natural resources.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao said China wanted to settle the Spratlys dispute through peaceful means and not through a military confrontation.
?For now, we can make something done to maintain stability... by entering into joint cooperation on the use of resources there,? Liu said in a speech before a joint meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce and the Management Association of the Philippines on Tuesday.
?We encourage all the parties to have a cooperation in this area rather than confrontation so we can all benefit from it,? Liu said.
?We're ready to settle this dispute through peaceful means rather than through military action,? he said.
The Philippines, China, and Vietnam are parties to the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), which seeks to seek out natural resources in the Spratlys.
Liu denied that China had provoked other claimants by regularly sending armed surveillance ships to assert its sovereignty over the islands.
?No. They are just fishing patrol ships. It's been there all the time. It's a normal occurrence,? he told reporters in an interview.
Liu said China was avoiding a military confrontation by adhering to the 2002 China-ASEAN Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was meant to ensure that the dispute would not lead to violence.
The ships were patrolling the waters to guarantee the safety of small Chinese fishermen, Liu said. Asked if the ships were armed, the envoy said he was not sure.
On the Manila?s Baselines Law, Liu said Beijing?s protest against its enactment into law was standing as of Tuesday.
He said both the Philippine and the Chinese governments made their respective position clear on this matter.
The largely uninhabited Spratlys and Paracel islands and surrounding waters are believed to have large oil and natural gas reserves. They straddle busy sea lanes and are rich fishing grounds.
Aside from the Philippines and China, the islands are being claimed in whole or in part by Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei.