China and three Southeast Asian countries are set to begin informal talks to create a “third country” in the South China sea, in a bid to curb territorial claims in the region.
The three countries, which are also known as the “Three Aces”, agreed in a phone call that the two countries will explore “possible new forms of cooperation”, a statement from China’s foreign ministry said.
“China is also willing to deepen cooperation with the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Vietnam on the peaceful resolution of disputes in the East and South China Seas”, the statement said.
The Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have long been locked in a territorial dispute with China, over uninhabited islands in the Spratly archipelago that China has made a strategic focus.
The US has been deeply concerned about China’s actions in the waters, and China has repeatedly called on the three countries to resolve the issue through dialogue.
China has long claimed most of the South and East China Seas, and has been building military facilities and facilities on at least six reefs in the area.
But the Philippines has also made provocative moves in the disputed waters.
Last month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on China to “cease all activity in the Paracel islands” and urged the Chinese government to “immediately withdraw” its ships and military from the islands.
“The Republic of China and the Republic [of the Marshall] Islands will cooperate to settle disputes in accordance with international law and the rules of international relations,” the statement added.
The statement did not name any countries.