NEW YORK?President Benigno Aquino said on Thursday that a group of Southeast Asian nations would be unified should China use its weight as regional superpower in territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Mr. Aquino, speaking a day ahead of a meeting of President Barack Obama and leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that will focus on territorial spats with China, said Beijing had so far not tried to ?push us around.?
But, he said after a speech on the sidelines of a United Nations global summit, ?in case that happens, I think Asean has demonstrated that we will stand as a bloc.?
In a reference to China, he said: ?Hopefully we don?t hear the phrase ?South China Sea? with reference to it being their sea.?
Speaking before the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Aquino expressed support for the US position that the South China Sea territorial dispute should be resolved peacefully.
?The Philippines welcomes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton?s statement that while the US takes no sides on the disputes in the South China Sea, the claimant states should resolve their disputes through a ?collaborative diplomatic process? and in accordance with international law,? Mr. Aquino said.
?The Philippines and the US share the need to maintain unimpeded maritime commerce and navigation,? he said.
China claims all of the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have also laid territorial claims. Aside from rich fishing areas, the region is believed to have huge oil and natural gas deposits.
Mr. Aquino took pride in the Philippines? role in the revival in May of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
?As President of that [nuclear conference], the Philippines helped... garner consensus towards a comprehensive approach to nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy,? Mr. Aquino said. AP, with a report from Norman Bordadora