Prince Mohamed attends Asean+3 Meeting in Bali

His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Brunei's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, together with other Asean Foreign Ministers and the Foreign Ministers from China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, yesterday morning attended the Asean Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting at the Bali International Convention Centre, Indonesia, according to a press release.

His Royal Highness later attended the Asean-Australia and Asean-China Post Ministerial Conference (PMC).

The ministers reviewed the progress and discussed the future direction of the dialogue partnerships. His Royal Highness expressed appreciation for the support and assistance given by the dialogue partners, particularly on Asean community building.

Meanwhile, China on Thursday sought to reassure Southeast Asian countries that it was a friendly neighbour, as all sides worked to ease tensions that spiked over a maritime territorial dispute, AFP reported.

Chinese diplomats told their counterparts from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) at the summit in Bali that China was intent on improving ties that had soured recently over the South China Sea row.

"We are determined to increase our co-operation with Asean countries. We're looking to the future, we have a broad, bright future," Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters on the sidelines of the talks.

"We want to be a good friend, good partner, good neighbour with Asean countries."

Liu made his comments shortly after Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and his 10 Asean counterparts formally endorsed a set of guidelines to lay the framework for a potential code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, along with China and Taiwan, have overlapping claims to parts of the South China Sea, an area believed to hold vast oil and gas resources.

The guidelines approved on Thursday were seen as a small but important circuit breaker after the Philippines and Vietnam had accused China of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the South China Sea.

"Naturally we are delighted that this has been achieved. It is the product of hard work on the part of many," Indonesian Foreign Minister and summit chair Marty Natalegawa said.

"But I am not complacent, a lot of nurturing and confidence-building needs to be done."

And while Vietnam had voiced cautious optimism Wednesday over the guidelines, the Philippines maintained that China had not gone far enough this week and that it still intended to take its case to a United Nations-backed tribunal.

The Philippines has accused Chinese forces of acts such as shooting at Filipino fishermen in the South China Sea and harassing an oil exploration vessel.

Vietnam said in one incident, Chinese sailors had boarded a Vietnamese fishing boat and beaten its captain before stealing the crew's catch.

The foreign ministers are in Nusa Dua as part of a week of diplomacy that will finish on Saturday with the region's biggest annual security summit, which includes the United States and Russia.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Bali on Thursday night after a visit to India, where she called on the South Asian nation to take a more assertive leadership role in the region. - Borneo Bulletin (22nd July 2011)